The Bismarck Tribune prides itself on local news coverage. We strive on a daily basis to publish a paper dominated by news from Bismarck-Mandan and across the state. We don’t always succeed to the extent we want, but it remains our goal.
Tribune readers don’t always agree with our choices, but we know when a story grabs the interest of a lot of readers. We know because we are able to track the number of readers looking at each story online. There’s no doubt there was great involvement in the Watford City tornado stories, the unfolding tragedy of Olivia Lone Bear and high Missouri River levels.
These are what we refer to as breaking news stories, but Tribune staffers spend a lot of time covering more routine stories involving city commissions, school events and state government. We also take time to profile successful business people like EarthKind CEO Kari Warberg-Block or we look back on 100 years of vehicle sales by Pfeifle Chevrolet-Buick in Wishek. When it’s hot we report on soaring temperatures and the impact.
The Tribune uses considerable space to present national-world news, mostly provided by the Associated Press.
Voters showed their appreciation in the June primary when they again approved the Tribune as the official paper of Burleigh County.
Why are we taking time to toot our own horn on the editorial page? Because newspapers are under attack, led by President Donald Trump, who has accused our profession of promoting fake news. So this week newspapers across the nation are using their editorial pages to defend journalism. Newspapers large and small are delivering the same message: We are here to serve you, not manipulate you. There are 89 newspapers in the state and if you have a chance to read a number of them you’ll notice the smallest ones live off what’s happening in the community. If a student does well they report it, if someone grows the biggest pumpkin they report it, and the hometown teams are always covered.
Bigger papers are able to provide expanded coverage of events in their communities and across the state. Sometimes we delve into issues that result in criticism.
During the Dakota Access Pipeline protests the Tribune encountered harsh criticism from all sides. It wasn’t unusual for a story to be attacked by both sides as unfair, and reporters and photographers took a lot of verbal abuse.
While most of Trump’s attacks are directed at the largest newspapers and TV networks, his message filters down to smaller communities. Some North Dakota candidates and officials have begun to parrot the “fake news” chant. When Trump visited Fargo on June 27 he taunted the media seven times during his address. He’s gone so far as to call reporters “horrible, horrendous people.”
There’s no way you can describe reporters that way. Newspapers have worked hard to train young journalists who are objective and fair. Many reporters and editors start their careers at small papers and move to larger publications. Tribune reporters, photographers and editors over the years have been hired by the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Miami Herald and others. They didn’t lose their objectivity along the way.
We don’t know why Trump considers newspapers and other media the “enemy of the people,” but the Tribune Editorial Board believes he’s wrong. This editorial isn’t an attack on Trump’s policies; we agree with some and disagree with others. We think the atmosphere of distrust he’s creating toward newspapers and other media needs to end. There’s always a certain amount of conflict between newspapers and government and that benefits the public. There shouldn’t be all-out war.
Over the years when big stories occurred -- the oil boom, the floods of 2011 and the pipeline protests -- the Tribune was there. There was nothing fake about our coverage then and there isn’t anything fake about our reporting now. That’s true of media across the nation and the public deserves to know it.