Tuesday, January 6, 2021 is a day that will live in infamy in American history—and not for good reasons. While Congress worked to certify the 2020 election results, rioters broke into the capitol. Emboldened by conspiracy theories, hatred and determination, they boldly embodied what is wrong with our democracy.
Although many issues are causing problems within our nation, one of the most concerning developments are the rhetorical attacks aimed at delegitimizing the press. Throughout the insurrection, participants angrily chanted “fake news.” On the doors of the capitol building, someone wrote “murder the media”.
This aggression led to several altercations where rioters attacked the press covering the insurrection. From spitting on them during a global pandemic, to hurling slurs, and physically attacking members of the media, this behavior has proven there is a problem within our democracy.
This behavior and villinazation of the press has been accepted under the Trump administration. The former president himself has said during countless rallies to not accept the “fake news” and to not trust the media.
A free press is a constitutional right and the attempt to discredit reputable organizations by a government figurehead is not something that should be accepted.
For many of the reporters on The Nevada Sagebrush, we plan to remain active members of the media going forward in our professional careers. It’s unnerving to go to an event, scared you’re going to be attacked just because you’re holding a camera or because you have a press badge around your neck.
Members of our newsroom and others across the country have had to take unprecedented steps to protect themselves when reporting in the field. These steps included more than just the use of the buddy system. Reporters on our own staff took steps such as writing Editor-in-Chief Olivia Ali’s phone number on their arms in case of arrest or emergency. Reporters established alternate escape routes in the event things got violent. Reporters disabled their Touch ID and Face ID on their phones in the event they got stolen and searched. Reporters had to research what would help alleviate the effects of tear gas.
These actions may seem extreme, but this has become the reality for many journalists across the nation.
During the Black Lives Matter protests, many journalists were teargassed, beaten and arrested regardless of how many times they signified their status as members of the press. The U.S. Press Freedom tracker found since 2017, more than 431 journalists have been attacked while covering protests.
This phenomenon has also been seen in our local communities. In Reno, two rioters assaulted a journalist during a Black Lives Matter protest in June. Several of our city’s reporters and community reporters were tear gassed by Reno Police. Brian Duggan, Executive Editor of the Reno Gazette-Journal wrote an editorial discussing the disheartening feeling of buying his photojournalist a bulletproof vest in order to safely cover an anticipated protest.
Fake news is a problem; however, credible news outlets do not aim to misinform or disinform their audience. Credible media outlets are extremely important for any democracy, including ours. The riot on Capitol Hill showed that the vilification of media outlets by prominent pundits and even politicians is part of a larger attack on democracy. Attacking the press and storming the capitol are two pages out of the same playbook, they go hand in hand.
But this begs the question: what does this mean for America? It means, for our democracy to continue forward, the press must be allowed to do their job without fear.
The Nevada Sagebrush stands with our fellow journalists who risked and continue to risk their safety to report on stories. We stand by the rights given to us in the First Amendment. We stand for our democracy to flourish as we enter into a new administration.
The Nevada Sagebrush can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.