By Emanuela Gallo '19
“Fake news.” It’s a phrase that we hear used so often in recent times. It’s reflective of a feeling that seems to have overwhelmed our nation: a hostility towards journalism and press organizations in America. What does this increasing antagonism towards news media mean for our country?
Several incidents in recent times reveal the answer. Jim Acosta, a journalist from CNN, was barred from the White House following an incident in November of 2018. During a press conference, Trump asked Acosta to “put down the mic” when he began to ask another question. He initially refused to give it up, but eventually relinquished the microphone. Trump then verbally berated him, referring to him as an “enemy of the people.” Later on, he also told April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, to sit down. “CNN is fake news," Trump said. "I don't take questions from CNN." Should a news organization be dismissed just because they are unfavorable toward the president?
Greg Gianforte, who was running for re-election in Montana, first garnered national headlines when video showed him body-slamming a reporter in 2017. A reporter from The Guardian, Ben Jacobs, approached Gianforte to get his opinion on an issue when he acted out. “He grabbed my recorder, and next thing I knew, I'd gone from being vertical to horizontal on the floor,” Jacobs said about the incident. It’s worthy to note that Trump seemed to endorse such an action, stating, “Any guy who can do a body slam, he is my type!"
Distrust in the media isn’t just among our politicians. A 2017 Knight-Gallup survey of more than 19,000 U.S. adults revealed what the public opinion is towards the media. More Americans have a negative (43%) than a positive (33%) view of news media, while 23% are neutral. 66% of Americans say that most news media do a poor job of separating fact from opinion. This is strikingly high, especially compared to the 42% of people who held this view in 1984. On a media trust scale of 0 (no trust) to 100 (full trust), today the average American score is a 37.
At its core, journalism is essential to our society. It acts as our ears for what we can’t hear and eyes for what we can’t see. Without it, we would be blind to our very own reality. Undermining its credibility detracts from the work and words of journalists. Even Trump seems to agree. When asked by journalist Lesley Stahl of the CBS program 60 Minutes about why he continued to attack the press, he replied, “You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.” Smearing the name of journalism is harmful not only because it silences the voice of the people, but also because it threatens the freedoms of press and speech. These inalienable rights that our country was founded upon are not selective. It does not mean that we can pick and choose which ideas, organizations, or opinions have a voice. News media outlets that are on opposites sides of the political spectrum both have the right to say their piece. If we tell certain voices to “put down the mic”- we hurt this right which is vital to our democracy. No matter whether one leans more right, left, or somewhere in the middle, I believe that we should all be able to agree on this simple fact: Journalism, in pursuit of the truth, should be protected in our country.