Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Taking a cue from Trump, state officials, like Kentucky's governor, attack the news media

Bevin criticizing the news media on Facebook Live
Perhaps taking a cue from President Trump's approach to the media, other politicians have followed suit with attacks on stories that don't show them in a favorable light. One such politician is Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican elected in 2015 who had never held a political office. Bevin has been ramping up his attacks on journalists, on Tuesday on Facebook Live referring to some as bugs, saying, "They make a lot of noise. They're like cicadas," Morgan Watkins reports for The Courier-Journal of Louisville.

"In recent months, the governor's office has largely ignored requests for comment from some of Kentucky's major news outlets, including The Courier-Journal, the Lexington Herald-Leader and [Louisville's] WAVE3 News, choosing to go on social media or do radio interviews with friendly hosts instead," Watkins writes. "Reporter Joe Sonka of Insider Louisville has even started a running tally of how many emails he and his colleagues have sent to Bevin's spokespersons without getting a response."

Bevin "also has publicly criticized several individual reporters after they wrote stories he disliked. He didn't name names in his Facebook video on Tuesday, but he did single out The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader as newsrooms that 'don't actually seem to care about Kentucky'," Watkins writes. "The reporters whose requests aren't returned 'are not serious journalists,' Bevin said, adding that Courier-Journal subscribers are throwing their money away."

C-J Executive Editor Joel Christopher told Watkins, "Anytime a politician tells you not to read the work of watchdog journalists, it should raise a red flag. It's like the circus magician telling you to watch his hands."

Bevin "said voters are capable of making their own decisions about the information he and his administration provide without the filter of the media," saying of Facebook Live, "There is nothing more transparent than live video, me talking straight to you. There is plenty of access. You will always be able to hear directly from me."

UPDATE, May 26: The Kentucky Press Association's weekly online newsletter for members has divergent editorials on the topic. Immediate Past KPA President Loyd Ford of The Lake News in Calvert City likens Bevin to a dictator: "How can anyone among us believe the ideal replacement for a free press is social media? What office holder if they are in charge of reporting about themselves would ever release any negative information? We will not accept the idea that elected officials should be allowed to avoid questions from the media or more importantly their constituents. This is how dictators operate."

Jeff Jobe, a Bevin appointee to the Kentucky Educational Television board, wrote an editorial that didn't address the governor's media strategy directly, but accused unnamed news outlets or journalists of bias: "We want to make sure a sitting governor doesn’t break any laws, but to pontificate on something where no laws have been broken time and time again, while giving minimal space for the next historically large corporate expansion because of long sought after policy on his watch, is nothing more than biases, and these guys are trying to create their own political tsunami."

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