McClatchy president and CEO describes independent press as patriotic not political

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In a speech Oct. 15 to students at University of the South, McClatchy President and CEO Craig Forman criticized the term "fake news" and championed the importance of local news. He also described a free press as one that shines light in dark corners and sometimes makes people uncomfortable.

He also urged students to vote: "The job of holding the powerful to account is hardly the media's responsibility alone. It's yours, too."

"What these reporters do matters," said Forman, a leading advocate for local journalism as well as a former newspaper reporter and technology entrepreneur. "And it matters to our way of life and our democracy. Not everyone seems to agree. They hear something that makes them uncomfortable and suggest it must be fake."

Forman urged students not to ignore a climate where the American public would suspect that a fiercely independent press is political instead of patriotic. He criticized the use of the term "fake news," and suggested that its proponents really meant to call it "political news."

"My hope is that (fake news) is little more than the pet rock or the chia pet – something that takes the nation by storm until consumers quickly see it for what it is: a gimmick," Forman said. He added, "When someone says the words 'fake news' what they mean is political news that they just don't like."

Offering specific examples of ground-breaking journalism from McClatchy brands, Forman also spoke of the importance of local media.  He cited a series of stories from the San Luis Obispo Tribune about a schizophrenic man who died after being strapped naked to a chair for two days.  The articles led to the county changing how it treats the mentally ill. Forman also pointed to another series of articles from McClatchy's The State which uncovered corruption at a local utility company in South Carolina.

"These stories are indicative of the very best of local news," said Forman.  "Vigorously investigating on the best knowable version of the truth and dealing with the consequences is an American tradition.  It's a patriotic pursuit."

The full text of Craig Forman's speech is available here.

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