In April 2017, my former next-door neighbor, Dale Moss, was inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame. During a career that spanned more than 25 years, Dale wrote over 3,500 columns and hundreds of news and feature stories for the Indiana section of The Courier-Journal, earning him the nickname “The Indiana Guy.”
I first met Dale in 1975, when he was studying journalism at Indiana University. We were both 21. I was building houses in those days. (I built a new house for Dale’s parents, and they gave their old house to Dale and his wife Jean.) I was writing on the side, and eager to find out from Dale what they taught in journalism classes.
I was surprised to learn that journalism classes focused mainly on the ethics of journalism — what could and should be written, and what could not and should not be written — and not so much on the mechanics of writing. That did not sound like fun to me. It sounded restrictive and censorial; I didn’t want anyone telling me what I could and could not write. I wanted to write whatever I pleased with no rules or restrictions.
In October 1981, I enlisted in the Army as a journalist. In 1982, I completed the Basic Journalism Course at the Defense Information School at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. Because of what I had learned from Dale, I was not surprised to find that my journalism classes focused mainly on the ethics of journalism, and not on the mechanics of writing.
For example, I learned the difference between libel and slander. Both are types of defamation. Libel is an untrue defamatory statement made in writing. Slander is an untrue defamatory statement spoken orally. Defamation is a falsehood presented as a fact that causes injury to the character of the person it is about.
I also learned that while the First Amendment to the Constitution states “Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press....” our freedom of speech is not without limits. For example, we cannot shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater.
Honorably discharged from the Army in 1985, I was determined to pursue a career in journalism, and not pound nails and saw boards for a living. Much to my dismay, I learned all the major newspapers, such as The Courier-Journal, required their journalists to have at least a bachelor’s degree. (Small-town newspapers offered ready employment, but with meager pay and benefits. So I returned to carpentering, and I wrote on the side as a hobby.)
45 years have passed since I first met Dale Moss. During those years I have known dozens of professional journalists and newspaper editors. Their ethics were above reproach, and journalistic ethics still run high.
On November 8, 2020, five days after the election, President Trump (@realDonaldTrump) tweeted: “Since when does the Lamestream Media call who our next president will be? We have all learned a lot in the last two weeks!”
Well, gee — that’s a darn good question, Mr. President. It deserves a darn good answer.
In an article by The Associated Press (11/12/2020), Alexandra Olson and David Koenig report: “The Associated Press first called a presidential race in 1848; here’s why and how the media call races in the U.S.”
“Fifty-one separate elections — one in each state and one in Washington, D.C. Each with different rules and regulations, and no national elections commission to tell the world who wins. How, then, to quickly and accurately determine who won the highest office in the land?
“That’s where the news media come in — and have done so since 1848, when The Associated Press declared the election of Zachary Taylor as president.
“It evolved from an instinct to report the news, but mostly because Americans didn’t want to wait to find out the results until mid-December.” (All states must certify their election results by December 14.)
Who is the “Lamestream Media?” Usually that unsavory sobriquet seems to apply to anyone and everyone other than Fox News.
And yet Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Paul Steinhauser reported on November 7, one day before Trump’s “Lamestream Media” lament: “Biden wins presidency, Trump denied second term in White House, Fox News projects: Biden ‘honored and humbled,’ Trump vows to keep fighting.”
“Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has defeated President Trump, denying him a second term after a bitter campaign and dramatic, prolonged vote count in battleground states that sparked a flurry of lawsuits.
“The Fox News Decision Desk projected Saturday that Biden will win the state of Nevada and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, giving the former vice president the electoral votes he needs to win the White House.”
All the major media outlets, including Fox News, have projected that Joe Biden will be our 46th president. Yet Trump and his allies continue to make baseless claims of voter fraud and refuse to concede the election. These false accusations undermine the strength of our democracy, not just here at home, but all across the world.
It is not unlike yelling “Fire!” in a crowded building. In Washington D.C., violence broke out between Biden supporters and Trump fans who think Trump has been cheated and robbed. If someone dies in that kind of situation, the blame will rest entirely on Trump and the “Silence of the Lambs” Republicans in Congress.
A USA TODAY article (11/18/2020), by Kevin Johnson and David Jackson, reports: “Trump ousts Homeland Security cyber chief Chris Krebs, who called election secure.”
“The Department of Homeland Security’s cyber chief, who presided over an elaborate election security effort guarding against foreign interference and fraud, was ousted by President Donald Trump on Tuesday as part of a continuing post-election purge of top national security officials.
“The dismissal of Christopher Krebs, director of DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, follows the agency’s declaration that the general election was the most secure in U.S. history.
“There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,” the agency reported Thursday in an assessment joined by a coalition of election security groups, including the National Association of State Election Directors.
“Krebs had been an outspoken defender of the nation’s election security apparatus in the months leading up to Election Day, even as Trump repeatedly warned of massive fraud that never materialized.”
Trump’s lawyers have lost at least two dozen lawsuits alleging voter fraud. In courtroom after courtroom, when asked if they had any evidence of voter fraud, the lawyers said that they did not. Outside the courtroom, however, they rambled and ranted about fantastic conspiracy theories, saying the voting machines were rigged by former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who has been dead for seven years.
The facts are quite simple: There was no voter fraud. President Trump and his lawyers are lying. Joe Biden won the election fair and square. Everyone needs to accept those simple facts. Until we do, our nation will continue to needlessly suffer.
Mark Heinz lives at Nolin Lake. Visit his website at amazon.com/author/markheinzbooks.