National media organizations, just last week, launched an effort to talk publicly about the role of journalists to hold elected officials and candidates accountable.
The effort was punctuated by the news Republican U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte yesterday was charged with misdemeanor assault for "body slamming" a reporter.
Dan Shelley, the incoming executive director for the Radio Television Digital News Association, said the growing level of vitriol against the news media has emboldened people to become more aggressive.
He said it doesn't help that President Donald Trump and other continue to use phrases like "enemy of the people," "most dishonest people in the room," or "fake news."
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017
Why is it that the Fake News rarely reports Ocare is on its last legs and that insurance companies are fleeing for their lives? It's dead!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 5, 2017
The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2017
"This rhetoric is like throwing gasoline on a fire and it's got to stop," said Shelley.
Shelley said there are countless example of outstanding, responsible journalism taking place every day. He said the First Amendment was intended to protect citizens' rights and their need to know the truth. Shelley said in the current divisive political environment that exists in America today, reporters, in some cases, have had to use new tactics and strategies, including becoming more assertive.
"And in some cases, even a bit aggressive, to find the truth, to perform their Constitutionally guaranteed duty to seek out facts and then report them to members of the public. That's no excuse for assaults on reporters, arrests of reporters who are doing their job in a a responsible way. There's just no excuse for that kind of outrageous behavior," said Shelley.
When asked if he thinks there will be more incidents like the one where Republican Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte is recorded physically attacking a Guardian newspaper reporter, Shelley said he hopes not, but he fears there will be more as long as the rhetoric continues at the current levels.