Journalists are asked to be objective in the work they do; their challenge is to sift through the multiple strands of information available to them and come up with a narrative that accurately and as completely as possible tells the audience about an event, a person, an organization and more.
Of course, they are not perfect. When these men and women make mistakes, they have an obligation to acknowledge the error and to explain how it happened. More often than not, the public will accept a sincere apology.
But forgiving their mistakes and seeking to destroy them are dramatically different. The President of the United States continues to peddle a destructive narrative that mainstream media news organizations want to undermine him by relentlessly disseminating “fake news.” (His rant was on full display earlier today during a press conference.)
His is a factually vacuous argument, but it is one that can rip apart the credibility of many journalists. Author Lee Siegel explores that thread in his recent piece for the Columbia Journalism Review. He states:
…when [Trump] spews such insults and accusations at the press, he is not only attacking a pillar of democracy, or undercutting an entire profession, or perhaps placing a bull’s-eye on lives and reputations. He is targeting people’s identities. He is imperiling the way they have worked out a manner in which to live.
This attack on the institution as a whole is taking place in an era of dwindling jobs, an ever-increasing reliance on technology, corporate demands that the most visible brands are profitable to a level that seems obscene to critics, and the unsettled nature of social media that can make a story appear more or less important than it actually is.
It’s no wonder that WIRED suggests journalism is fighting for its survival. Granted, the idea is overstated: Journalism will survive; however, journalism as we know it — a brief synopsis of which I provided in the opening paragraph to this post — is not assured a long and healthy life.
There is evidence in Washington, where some of the nation’s best journalists cover the executive branch, that Trump’s nasty rhetoric about the industry is being met with the most appropriate response: investigating the mistakes the Trump administration is making.
And it is making many mistakes. Huge mistakes.
The Daily Beast takes a look at some of the early critical reporting of the new administration and argues it cannot stop. Why? Simple,
…the president has not given up on his quixotic quest to reverse the laws of gravity. At 6:41 a.m. Wednesday, Trump tweeted: “The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred. @MSNBC & @CNN are unwatchable. @FoxandFriends is great!”
That was just the start of a Twitter rant in which the Leader of the Free World seemed to be shouting into the wind …
As journalists refuse to back down, they also should be at the ready to support the next generation. Indiana is one of multiple states considering laws that would prevent censorship on the high school and college campus. The Indiana Daily Student covered a recent hearing at the Indiana statehouse on the issue.
Lydia Gerike, an IU freshman studying journalism and a reporter for the Indiana Daily Student, was the first to testify in support of HB 1130.
Gerike said chose IU in part because the student newspaper is independent from the University. Because she had a comprehensive journalism education in high school, she was able to jump into covering complex issues as an elections reporter for the IDS during her first semester as a freshman.
“As often as we disagree, journalists and politicians are the same at our cores,” Gerike said. “We are civil servants.”
Smart words — “we are civil servants” — from that young woman.
Consistent pressure needs to be put on high school administrators, college officials and leading politicians that journalism cannot be neutered because a leader doesn’t like what a journalist is reporting. And maybe, just maybe, we need to “get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick [our] head out, and yell ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.'”
Let’s see what “fake news” that will be.