We are so about our rights and freedoms in Idaho. So, what about freedom of speech?

A north Idaho newspaper, the Sandpoint Reader, has recently been threatened in a series of robocalls. According to news coverage, the alternative weekly has a “leftist agenda” and that one of its reporters is a “cancer on wholesome North Idaho” that must be “burned out.” It urges people to boycott the paper’s advertisers.

As respecters of our constitutionally guaranteed rights, citizens viewing such incidents should respond with a public consensus of condemnation against such threats of violence.

The atmosphere for mass media today has become increasing hostile. The continued demonization of national print and broadcast journalists has trickled down to the regional and local levels. “Fake news,” a term initially used for false and manipulative coverage is now common vernacular to throw the way of anything someone doesn’t like, doesn’t agree with, or exposes the actions of him or her to public scrutiny.

Are there biases, agendas and purposeful slants to news coverage? Sure.

But well more than that are dedicated, respectful, professional and committed journalists out there who put their byline to crafted, researched and attributed reporting, every day and every week, to serve as the eyes and ears to the public about their communities, their governments, and the issues that affect their daily lives.

From this corner of the pond, we review every week the reporting done across North Central Idaho by many committed journalists who care about their communities. Not always is it done right or complete, some things are missed or misinterpreted. But like a good ball player, they take the taunts and insults of the crowd, shake it off, and they’re back up to bat again. These people are covering meetings, community events, running down information on ongoing investigations, and keeping an eye out to head off issues before they become problems.

They’re your friends and neighbors. They shop in your stores, are in your churches and organizations. They want to get it right because they live in those communities and have a vested interest in them.

Not always will we agree, whether it’s an editorial on this page or the news story we run on page 1A. And that’s OK. But what we should agree on is free speech is a vital part of our democracy, helping to inform, as well as entertain.

The voices of those who advocate violence to silence it should not be tolerated.

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