It goes without saying that at The Whit we value the role journalism and recognize its importance. It is because we recognize these things, that as a staff, we are discouraged and worried by the president’s and the public’s current attitude toward the media in the United States.
Over the course of the presidential campaign, President Donald J. Trump constantly berated the media and directed his supporters to help him do so during rallies. Sean Spicer, the new administration’s White House press secretary, has fussed about unfair coverage from different sources. He most recently entered into a war with the industry over the size of the president’s inauguration crowd and about the nature of facts themselves.
But Trump and his team’s ability to act this way hasn’t come from a vacuum. A decades long tumble in the public’s trust in the media created an atmosphere begging for a campaign willing to demonize reporters and their outlets.
A newfound reliance on partisan television and online websites over traditional news outlets has pushed both sides of the political spectrum to its fringes. An impression has been created that anything which reports findings contrary to what you would like to believe, is biased. And not only is it biased, but it’s outwardly and embarrassingly so.
There was a time when the nation’s most trusted man was a newscaster. Now, newscasters barely even get to mention the facts as they are, overshadowed instead by the squabbling of talking heads arguing along dichotomous political lines and often on the payroll of the network itself.
That citizens continue to seek journalism at all is evidence that they haven’t lost sight of its necessity.
The conclusion then may be that “the media” has actually earned the distrust that many citizens feel. As a collective, it has failed to fully realize the potential of the internet without simultaneously destroying its business model. As a collective, it has failed to consistently present unbiased, well-reported and meaningful stories. And as a collective, it failed to shift focus away from the horse race and nonsense of the most volatile and divisive campaign in recent memory, if not ever.
But that is not to say that all media is failing, or that the role of reporting and journalism should be forgotten. That citizens continue to seek journalism at all is evidence that they haven’t lost sight of its necessity. Newspapers like the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and others (mainly of which are state and local papers) have continued to do honest, factual and important reporting.
To those who find themselves upset with the current state of the media, and who perceive it to be as bitterly divided along partisan lines as the public itself, these outlets may just be the answer. Articles, video clips, stories and graphics can be shared so that it appears like everything coming from one outlet is taking the same side. It’s only upon waking up and reading, not what as shared on your Facebook and Twitter feed, but whatever is in the paper, that you’ll realize these outlets have not lost sense of their mission to be unbiased.
But both the media and the public need to work harder at creating real content, and at seeking out the best of the content being created by others. But it starts with you, just like every other part of this democracy.
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