Psst, Mr. President… We’re not enemies of the people

I was once a more-regular enemy of the people than I am today, editing a newspaper in Princeton for more than 30 years and writing about sports in and around Princeton for nearly a half century. Now I’m down to this weekly blog and an occasional story, making me – I hope – less of an enemy of the people than before.

A few weeks ago our dear president declared the media the “enemy of the American people.” And now that I’ve had time to think about it, I’d like to tell you about some of those enemies of the people and all the harm they do.

Although located 1,700 miles away at the time, I noticed a story in the Union-Times a couple weeks ago about the life of a Milaca 23-year-old ending because of cancer only a few days before a benefit was to be held to offset medical bills of a couple married only a few months. Surely the writer of that story was an enemy of the people.

In a different edition of that paper there was a story about a man retiring after 50 years in law enforcement, beginning with time as a military policeman and ending with 17 years at the jail in Mille Lacs County. One wonders why an enemy of the people would write that human-interest story.

Awhile back the writer of this blog wondered, in print, why a couple of people running the new stadium of the Minnesota Vikings were letting so many people in free, issuing free VIP parking passes, and dispensing food and drink to their buddies. It was a story ferreted out by a Star Tribune reporter and written about by myself and many others. You’d think the collective enemies of the people would have something better to do – but, strangely enough, those two people have since resigned their jobs. Enemies of the people have written story after story, decade after decade, about people who abuse their power.
A couple of weeks ago in this space, their was a piece about Bob Dunn, a well-respected member of the Minnesota Legislature from Princeton who had also served in various other capacities during his many years of public service. If it makes me an enemy of the people for writing about someone like that, I’ll gladly accept that label.

I worked with someone for nearly 30 years in Princeton who was an enemy of the people – covering meetings, writing feature stories and taking thousands of pictures of local people and local happenings. On occasion he agonized about writing something that might put a person in a bad light, even if the facts were clear. If ever there was an enemy of the people, it was that reporter.

We enemies of the people have reported on the good and bad things in our community over the years. And sometimes an enemy of the people makes a mistake in a story or spells a name wrong. It happens in every paper, large or small, and corrections are made as soon as possible, sometimes with a personal phone call involved. Writing obituaries of people you knew well was a trying experience, but it was part of the job for an enemy of the people, as was trumpeting the accomplishments of people, some of whom you may not have been friends with. It all went with the territory when you were an enemy of the people.

Enemies of the people wrote about high school musicians, community leaders, births, engagements, weddings, honor students. 4-H’ers, etc., etc. But it was something the enemies of the people had to do as part of their jobs.

And there were those long hours at public meetings often attended by no one else except enemies of the people who would then write about how your tax dollars were going to be spent or possibly misused.

Enemies of the people masquerading as reporters shouldn’t let opinions show through in their stories, unless they’re on the opinion page. And editors – also enemies of the people – should counsel a reporter to change a story that contains an opinion.

Anyway, you get the drift. There are enemies of the people who cover government at its highest level, including the president of the country. An editorial in the Star Tribune back in February said it well: “The powerful have never like being watched, and they will do whatever they can to avoid scrutiny.”And that’s the case with Republicans and Democrats alike.

There seems to be a lot of “fake news” going around today. But remember that most enemies of the people care deeply about their profession, about truth and about accuracy. Readers should be happy about the enemies of the people who feel that way and strive to do their best. — Luther Dorr, Princeton (Editor’s note: Dorr was the editor of the Princeton Union Eagle, one of ECM Publishers’ newspapers. Although he retired, he continues to write for the newspaper, now the Union-Times, and a regular blog.)