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Port: Claim that Forum wouldn't publish vaccine mandate column is completely false

Talk radio host Chris Berg claims The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead "canceled" North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring by not publishing a column he wrote about vaccine mandates, but it's not true.

PHOTO: Chris berg cancel culture tweet
A screen capture of a November 3, 2021, tweet sent by talk radio host Chris Berg accusing the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead of "cancel culture."

MINOT, N.D. — The leftward tilt of the American news media, pronounced at the national level but problematic even locally, is a constant source of frustration to me as a conservative.

The journalism industry talks about the need for newsroom diversity all the time. If we're going to tell our society's stories, the argument goes, then our newsrooms should reflect our society in terms of things like gender and race. And it's a good argument, as far as it goes, except that for many years now our nation's publishers and editors and producers seem to care very little for ideological or even cultural balance. This created a vacuum for conservative perspectives that has been filled over the years by a growing conservative-leaning alternative media.

It's not been an entirely good thing. We live in a divided time, and at least some of the roots of that division can be traced back to this balkanization of the news media.

Unfortunately, justified conservative consternation over the leftward cant of the "mainstream media" ( I loathe that term ) has been coopted by charlatans, disgraced former President Donald Trump among them, who have taken to labeling any journalism they don't like as a product of bias.

I'm talking about the "fake news" mantras, which are often deployed not about actual inaccuracies but merely reported facts that are inconvenient for certain political dogmas.

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Also, sometimes the "fake news" whiners perpetrate a lot of fake news themselves.

Take, for example, a claim from talk radio host Chris Berg ( who recently left his long-time TV show over a vaccine mandate ) claiming that The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead , the flagship newspaper owned by my employers at Forum Communications Co. where I am published pretty much daily, was refusing to run a letter critical of private sector vaccine mandates written by Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring .

Berg labeled it "cancel culture."

In subsequent tweets, Berg accused The Forum of specifically "canceling" the Republican commissioner, a contention Goehring himself agreed with during the audio of an interview Berg posted.

This accusation didn't pass the smell test for me.

I've worked for Forum Communications for years, and one thing I've learned is that they take the "forum" part of our company's name very seriously. They intend for our publications to be true forums where many points of view are welcome. I was immediately dubious that our company would refuse to publish a column like this from a statewide elected official.

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But if it really happened, then perhaps Berg's criticism might have some merit.

So I did what Berg didn't and I got in touch with Matt Von Pinnon , editor-in-chief of The Forum. "It’s not true," he told me. "Goehring submitted a column but without his elected title. We simply asked if this was Goehring the ag commissioner and he never replied. Now that we know it’s him, we will consider publishing the letter."

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That's the responsible thing to do.
People like Berg would be yucking it up on social media if The Forum got caught running a column purportedly by a statewide elected official that wasn't actually written by that official. They had a duty to confirm the provenance of the column, and when they couldn't, they did the responsible thing and refrained from publishing.

I spoke to Goehring as well, and he said he didn't receive a reply to his column from The Forum, though I have a copy of the reply they sent.

It seems like this teapot tempest could have been avoided had Goehring or Berg followed up with The Forum as to why the column wasn't published.

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Neither did, and now here we are with the truth taking a back seat to sensational accusations.

Von Pinnon says the column will be published now that the authorship has been confirmed, and why wouldn't it be?

The Forum has published many columns and letters to the editor expressing a wide variety of views about the COVID-19 pandemic, the masking mandates, and the vaccines. At times, our publications have even been criticized for publishing what might generously be described as conspiracy theories about the pandemic.

031819.AG_.PowerGrab.JPG
North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring is hoping to see his department pick up a few more responsibilities if bills in the North Dakota Legislature pass. Photo taken Oct. 12, 2018. Jenny Schlecht / Forum News Service

Some think that perpetuates misinformation, but our company's philosophy is to provide a forum even for controversial points of view.

It might earn us a lot of criticism at times, but it's something to be proud of.

I know I'm proud of it.

What's not worth being proud of is what Berg has done, which is publish a thinly-sourced falsehood simply because it jibed well with certain political talking points about the "fake news media" and "cancel culture."

Ironically, after I retweeted Berg's original claim about Goehring's column, noting it was false, Berg tweeted this:

Let's cut through Berg's juvenile attempted at edginess (this reads like an online status posted by a diffident middle schooler) and acknowledge that the truth is merely the truth, and is only an enemy to those seeking to deceive.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a columnist and podcast host for the Forum News Service. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com.
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