U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern doesn’t distinguish between activists and news journalists, not seeming to mind putting more small town and niche news organizations out of business.
The Tulsa congressman equated local reporters to Democrat-controlled activists in explaining his opposition to a provision in the pending federal spending bill. His comments are in a blog post from the conservative think-tank Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs.
The spending bill under negotiation includes aspects of the stalled Local Journalism Sustainability Act that would allow for a payroll tax credit for media companies with fewer than 750 employees. The purpose is to keep small companies from shuttering or laying off more workers. It would not apply to national media like The New York Times and CNN.
“It’s one of the dumber proposals I’ve seen included in an already monstrous piece of legislation. There’s more important work to be done than giving the Democrats’ activist-journalists a tax break,” Hern said.
We understand questioning tax credits and hope he extends that critical eye to other industries such as energy, also up for tax credits in the bill. Hern has secured tax and relief benefits for franchise owners, like the McDonald’s restaurants where he made his fortune.
More Americans in recent years say they don’t trust media but then say they mean national news. Still, that disrespect and distrust trickles down to small-town Oklahoma, from Woodward to Tahlequah.
Rural and niche state newspapers continuing to operate by a thread would not be considered liberal or under the thumb of Democrats. Most reprint the press releases provided by their elected representatives and consistently publish conservative opinion pieces.
Many Oklahoma media outlets, especially in rural areas, would benefit from the tax credits. Think of the many small towns now without a newspaper or coverage from radio or television. Those are news deserts.
A lot happens in those towns without anyone looking over the shoulder of community decision makers.
Local reporters are at meetings of city councils, school boards, county commissioners, health department boards, library boards and committees within those. They check the police blotter and courthouse dockets. They track business development, entertainment in town and the high school sports teams.
In the process, they argue for public transparency of records and meetings. It’s harder for scandals to happen with someone on the lookout.
The absence of journalists only benefits those in power, and too many communities are going without a watchdog.
Politicians have redefined “activist” to belittle people with whom they disagree. Court rulings have led to “activist judges,” and doctors pushing for mask mandates are “activist physicians.”
Journalists reporting what politicians say and do are not activists. They are doing their jobs, even if politicians don’t like how the public interprets those words and deeds.
News journalists are not activists; they are simply quoting politicians accurately.