June 18, 2019
Opinion & Editorial

Editorial: A Call to Correctness from the American Press, a Call to Clarity from the White House

It seemed like a match made in heaven: the sloppy media courts the careless billionaire. They fight publicly, but we all know that both sides benefit from these quarrels. The media regains a once-scattering crowd of adorers, and the man on the campaign trail gets all of the free publicity he wants. A symbiotic (if not romantic) arrangement. But of course, like so many great loves, it couldn’t last.

In the split, unfortunately, the American people have been forced to choose sides.

It’s a strange place to be when you have to choose whether you trust the Commander in Chief of your nation more or less than various news organizations. If NPR says that the crowds weren’t that large, but the Trump Administration says that they were, what are we to believe?

Trump ran on the idea of “draining the swamp” of untrustworthy politicians and restoring faith in the government. This idea, however, does not measure up to the press-hostile community he currently fosters. The President should know that a free press system often facilitates democracy. It’s the people’s own check and balance.

That said, the media is not without fault. It’s a shame to even group every news organization in this country under that once heading, but there’s no way to sort the good from the bad right now.

America’s most-trusted news sources are slacking.

When you can’t tell an opinion piece from a standard article anymore, it’s time to reevaluate. In the words of CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, journalists need to “recommit to robust fact-based reporting.”

Some say that it’s too soon to decide whether Trump will erode any freedoms of the press, but there’s evidence that he already has.

Between the President’s incessant cries of “fake news” and Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s shocking daily debasement of the media, much of the damage has been done.

As Trump proved on the campaign trail, if you say something loudly and often enough, people will begin to accept it.

There are too many mistakes in the daily media that the TrumpAdministration can point to. It seems that nearly every fourth tweet from @realDonaldTrump is either the link to an article about fake news or his own personal fact-check of a story.

Responsible journalists need to stop giving him these opportunities to find flaws.

If this was all one big lie, a master-plan by 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to overthrow the good name of American journalism, it would be much easier for the journalists in question to fight back. Unfortunately, however, the President has been correct in many of his critiques.

Sloppy journalism is allowing him to gain the upper hand in this information war.

The incorrect polls, the daily flurry of anti-Trump propaganda and the constant focus on the most trivial matters in the White House need to be addressed. That’s the first mode of attack in reversing the damage that has been done to the reputability of the press: go back to the facts–not the sensational, “heartless conservatives” clickbait that has driven revenue for the past year.

We need to wrench ourselves from this reactionary news cycle. Every news outlet doesn’t need to report on every word that the President says. It would be vastly more productive to focus on the policies he’s putting in place. A real interrogation of the words that he’s signed his own name to and plans to implement in America would be a nice change of pace in the news.

These last few weeks have been so chaotic that we can’t focus on all of the orders and policy moves Trump has made. That’s a dangerous place to be.

The media needs to be informing the public on the actions that have been taken in their country. Not focusing on policy is risking allowing something to go under the radar of the American people. We need to be informed, and we cannot trust our President to be the one informing us.

On the flip side of that, it’s going to be crucial that we collectively address the issues of this attempt to delegitimize the press. In the words of Brian Fallon, Hillary Clinton’s former Press Secretary, “If they’re willing to lie about something as trivial as crowd size at the inaugural, think of what they might be willing to lie about, matters of war and peace and other things that are far more serious.”

On February 6, @realDonaldTrump tweeted that “Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.”

He followed that tweet with “I call my own shots, largely based on an accumulation of data, and everyone knows it. Some FAKE NEWS media, in order to marginalize, lies!”

And the grand finale, “The failing @nytimes writes total fiction concerning me. They have gotten it wrong for two years, and now are making up stories & sources!”

The Trump Administration has created this monster of a media, and now they’re going to pretend that they’ve saved us from it. Branding all negative coverage as fake news is a brazen move, but this administration is not shy.

The only way to slow this anti-press push is for the media to clean itself up.

In a normal presidency, it would be more likely for the person in the Oval Office to adjust his rhetoric than to expect the entire American journalism community to do so, but if the last three weeks are any indication, the next four years will be anything but normal.