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Gutknecht: Welch's last bill leaves bad taste

Dear Rep. Andrew Welch,

As the editor and publisher of The Covington News, Newton County’s legal organ, I am disappointed. 

As one of our county’s representatives at the Capitol, I am in utter disbelief by the bombshell you dropped in the form of House Bill 734 Tuesday, the final day of the 2019 session. Holy cow. You, along with five co-sponsors have just added fuel to the fire in the world of distrust in the media. 

I get it, being a politician is tough. You are under a microscope with every decision you make and that microscope sometimes comes in the form of a reporter asking the tough questions. 

That being said, I don’t think you completely understand or respect the role of journalists in our country. Freedom of the press is included in the First Amendment. It is that important. The idea to create a “Journalism Ethics Board” is almost laughable. 

As the publisher for a newspaper within your district, I am discouraged by the fact that you didn’t even think to reach out to discuss this proposal. I would have been more than happy to discuss the thorough vetting process every story goes through before it hits these pages. I would have been happy to explain the training we’ve all received. I would be happy to review the laws that govern our craft with you. I would be happy to discuss my personal and professional ethics with you.

This, however, is a slap in the face by big government.

Holler “fake news” all you want, but once we get back to reality, you will realize that the hard-working journalists you are looking to tie down already face an uphill battle when it comes to providing the most accurate information to their readers.

I do want to personally thank you for your service to Newton County and the leadership you have provided for your district at the state level. That being said, I hope the person that is elected to fill your seat in the November special election will be more in tune with the actual issues facing the district and state as a whole. 


Jackie Gutknecht

Editor and Publisher

The Covington News