Gov. Whitmer speaks virtually to press
By Maddy Warren
Editor in Chief
The Michigan Press Association wrapped up its 2020 online convention Friday, Oct. 16, with keynote speaker Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The session was held via Zoom.
Whitmer spoke to students, MPA staff and other participants via iPad while riding in the backseat of a car. She was on her way to participate in an event with presidential candidate Joe Biden in Southfield that evening.
She talked about the importance of the media in these unprecedented times.
“I respect the incredible work that you do and in these challenging circumstances,” Whitmer said. “I think that your jobs are more important than ever, so thank you for the work that you do.”
Whitmer discussed the events of the evening of March 10, the Michigan Presidential Primary. She recalled when she and her staff were informed of the first confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan, as Biden was announced the winner of the primary.
“Now over seven months later, (the) COVID-19 pandemic is still a very real threat to our people, our families, our businesses,” Whitmer said. “And as dedicated reporters across the state who I know are working around the clock to keep Michiganders informed, it is a threat to you as well.
“The MPA and your members have always been there to connect people in times of individual isolation, providing the hard news and spreading the word about how to protect one another. The COVID-19 pandemic has required all of us to act together, and I am sincerely grateful for your efforts throughout this moment.”
Whitmer added the COVID-19 pandemic is not the only crisis Michigan has faced this year.
“In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, local news has served as a sounding board for public discourse and protest and self-reflection on discrimination and race within our communities,” she said. “For those in Midland, your reporting helped more than 10,000 residents get to high ground and safety in time to be safe from the flooding.”
The governor also spoke of events from the past few weeks.
“On the same day that we found out the President of The United States tested positive for coronavirus, the Supreme Court announced their decision on the 1945 emergency powers law,” Whitmer said. “We’ve had presidential candidates, vice presidential candidates and their spouses come to visit our state on many occasions, and last week law enforcement officers announced a multi-state domestic terrorist plot to kidnap and possibly kill me.”
Whitmer said the press has been the eyes, ears and voice for the communities, and an important part of navigating these tough times.
“Sometimes I find (the media) incredibly challenging, but I have never lost respect for the profession that is reporting the news and informing the public,” Whitmer said. “You’re critical to our democracy and I want you to know I am working to keep you safe, just like I am working to keep the rest of our state safe.”
After she spoke, Whitmer took questions from participants, including journalism student Ben Henry.
“You obviously have a very favorable view of the press, but the President has called the press ‘fake news’ and ‘the enemy of the people,’” Henry said. “So when you hear these types of things coming from the President of the United States, what’s your reaction to that?”
Whitmer responded that she has grappled with the same question herself.
“I do think that it’s important that we stand up for the free press,” Whitmer said. “I think it’s a critical component to holding our government accountable and ensuring that the people have the kind of information that they need.”