July 18, 2019

Event Coverage Highlight

OPC Vice President Scott Kraft Says Journalists ‘Won’t Shut Up’ Despite Attacks

by Patricia Kranz

Scott Kraft, managing editor of the Los Angeles Times and third vice president of the OPC, urged journalists to stay focused on telling the truth and “resist the temptation to counter name-calling with our own name-calling” in his keynote speech on June 8 at the Jerusalem Press Club’s third international conference on press freedom. The theme of the conference was “Journalism under Siege.”

“Our profession is indeed, under siege,” Kraft said. “Too many of our colleagues have been murdered, attacked and harassed around the globe – in attacks orchestrated by powerful people and often-totalitarian governments.”

But Kraft focused his remarks not on physical attacks, but on the challenges journalists in the United States face from President Trump’s campaign against them as the “Enemy of the People” and Trump’s “loose association with the truth.”

Citing information from the Washington Post’s Fact Checker tally, he said President Trump delivered more than 3,000 falsehoods in his first 18 months in office. Less than a year later, he crossed the 10,000 mark.

Kraft described how in the early days of the Trump Administration, the LA Times editorial pages ran a series of editorials titled “Our Dishonest President.” The newspaper made T-shirts for the staff with a phrase across the chest that reflected their commitment to telling the truth. The phrase was: “We Will Not Shut Up” – and it was translated into 10 languages, including Arabic and Hebrew.

He noted another concerning trend: The dwindling amount of information that Americans are getting from their government. He said there has not been a formal White House briefing in months, and that at the Pentagon and State Department, it’s been a year. The same resistance to turning over public information is happening at the state and local level, he said.

“The challenge to us is to carry on. To stay focused. To tell the truth. To recommit ourselves to accountability reporting. To keep battling for more information from our government,” Kraft said.

Journalists from Israel and Poland at the conference also lamented the lack of access to high-level government officials. “[Israeli leader Benjamin] Netanyahu does not give interviews to people who will ask him hard questions,” said David Horovitz, editor of the Times of Israel.

“If every single story is about the government’s point of view, it is propaganda,” said Magdalena Rigamonti of the Warsaw Press Club.

Kraft closed with an appeal for journalists around the world to stand up for those who are punished for courageous reporting.

“The principles we hold dear have been tested before, and they will be tested again,” Kraft said. “But we aren’t going away. We won’t shut up.”

Patricia Kranz, executive director of the OPC, and Bill Collins, chair of the OPC’s Press Freedom Committee, also attended the conference.