Journalists have one vital mission – to inform and educate the public.
But what happens when the general public grows suspicious of the press?
According to a Gallup poll, American citizens’ trust in the media has fallen to an all time low, with Republicans remaining the most distrustful of news.
And while Gallup concluded the poll results were a direct consequence of the 2016 presidential election, which was one of the most divisive in history, there is one politician who has been leading the war against journalism – President-elect Donald Trump.
After Trump publicly declared his hatred for journalists during a rally last December, called out several reporters and media outlets for allegedly slanting the news and vowed to “open up” federal libel laws in order to make suing journalists easier, many journalists were wary for the future of free press if he were elected.
And so far, those fears have not been assuaged.
Just this week, Trump took to Twitter again to berate a CNN reporter and the network for their coverage of voter fraud.
Whether Trump was right about the reporter is irrelevant. Tweets such as “@jeffzeleny Pathetic – you have no sufficient evidence that Donald Trump did not suffer from voter fraud, shame! Bad reporter,” and “@jeffzeleny just another generic CNN part time wannabe journalist !” should never be found on the president-elect’s Twitter feed.
Besides harassing reporters on social media, Trump has made a conscious effort to shut out the press. He was the first president-elect to fly to Washington to meet the current president sans a group of reporters
Normally, the president-elect travels with a group of reporters constantly in the months following the election, a tradition that keeps the general public up-to-date on their new president’s actions.
If Trump’s failure to comply with precedent wasn’t bad enough, he has already berated top TV executives and news outlets during an off-the-record meeting meant to discuss coverage of the Trump administration.
According to an NPR article, while Trump said he would like a “cordial and productive” relationship with the press, he continued to single out reporters and news outlets, and declare them “the worst.”
Additionally, after a dispute about the terms and conditions concerning a meeting with The New York Times, Trump canceled the meeting and took to Twitter to proclaim “the failing” Times “inaccurately” covers him with a “nasty tone.” The meeting was later rescheduled.
Now that this man is going to be president, it is only rational to believe that the animosity American people feel toward media and journalism will continue to grow.
So, what can journalists do?
It is now more important than ever for journalists to cover real stories fairly and accurately, despite whom they might piss off.
The only way to prove to American citizens that we are here for them, that we are on their side, that we are doing this all for them, is to continue writing the honest and accurate stories some may not want to hear.
The only way to combat a demagogue is to educate his followers.
And the only way to appeal to his followers is to report fairly.
All the big media outlets which tend to sway toward either side, all the fake news outlets that have wormed their way onto our Facebook feeds and all the users who perpetuate the fake news by sharing instead of fact-checking – it is time to stop reporting based on your own agenda.
Now, more than ever, the public needs access to real news. Let’s give it to them.