It is no secret that certain outlets and media groups have political leanings, but how are citizens expected to become accurately informed when a narrative is created that the media is not to be trusted, or that certain news anchors and stations spew “fake news”?
I am not here to judge what political choices you make as a private citizen or who you support; I am here to draw attention to what I believe is a major flaw of the current presidential administration, as well as the rhetoric of the political party affiliated.
The President of the United States turns to Twitter to criticize others he deems inadequate when he cannot accept criticism himself. The president not only has to be held to the same accuracy standard as the media outlets he continually attacks; as a public figure, he should be held to a higher standard.
Additionally, he has to be held accountable for the actions his words inspire. His words create a major problem. Have you read Twitter threads of the fights people get into? This rhetoric that pits the media against Trump, and specifically Democrats versus Republicans, decreases any chance of a working bipartisanship. It only makes the divide stronger.
How are we, the people, supposed to trust the man that holds what many consider to be the highest office in the United States when he cannot even utilize spell check or check his grammar? Covfefe, anyone?
It is irresponsible and unprofessional to throw a temper tantrum and retaliate by threatening to revoke press access and restrict access based on affiliation with a specific network. It is additionally irresponsible to charge journalists with federal offenses for simply doing their jobs; the Committee to Protect Journalists notes that imprisoning journalists is “the most effective form of intimidation and harassment” used by the top ten most censored countries.
Yes, media outlets make mistakes and have been proven to report based on false information on occasion, but the solution is to hold them accountable, not to punish them by barring their access to information. Cable Network News (CNN), for example, retracted an article and apologized when it was found that the outlet ran an inaccurate story about a Senate investigation regarding Russian ties to one of Trump’s associates.
It is no secret the current president clearly favors networks that support his administration. He has said so himself numerous times throughout his term. The following are tweets solely from June 2017:
Great reporting by @foxandfriends and so many others. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2017
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2017
Sorry folks, but if I would have relied on the Fake News of CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, washpost or nytimes, I would have had ZERO chance winning WH
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
Hostility between an administration and the media is not new. CPJ recounts animosity reporters faced during the Civil Rights Movement and the concept of “blaming the messenger,” but what is striking is the “previously unseen” levels of resentment ushered in by the Trump administration.
Let me say this for the people in the back: blaming the press is a scapegoat.
Instead of covering issues that should take a higher precedent, the president tweets about talk show hosts, calling them “crazy” and “dumb as a rock,” and consistently labels the Democratic party as “obstructionists.”
Attacking the media diverts attention from other, more newsworthy topics. Since June 1, the president has drawn attention to “fake news” in more than 20 tweets compared to five on the proposed healthcare bill.
On July 2, the president went so far as to tweet a video directly attacking CNN depicting a wrestling match where Trump himself tackles and throws punches at the media outlet, just days after Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated in a White House briefing the president “in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2017
He subsequently posted a video stating, “the press has destroyed themselves because they went too far.”
As members of the press, it is not our job to appease, and it is not our job to apologize if you don’t like what we have to say. It is our job to report and push the envelope. If we critique, it is because we care and we want to improve what we can, where we can. We want to communicate effectively, but we cannot and will not be able to do that if the current presidential administration continues this dangerous rhetoric against the media.
If these trends continue, will the United States become similar to other countries that have their media heavily censored by the government? What happens when “the land of the free,” that preaches guaranteed freedoms such as freedom of press and freedom of speech, really isn’t so free after all?
John F. Kennedy shared his own thoughts on the freedom of press in a 1962 interview, which I think is a very pertinent closing example. He stated the following:
“…It is never pleasant to be reading things that are not agreeable news, but I would say that it is an invaluable arm of the presidency… there is a terrific disadvantage not having the abrasive quality of the press applied to you daily, to an administration, even though we never like it… there is no doubt that we could not do the job at all in a free society without a very, very active press.”