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June 27, 2017

OPINION: Journalism matters more than ever in the age of Trump


Why we need to stay informed


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Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian

 

Journalists are a vital part of our citizenry. It’s journalists, after all, who provide the public with the information required to make intelligent decisions. Most of us, I’d wager, have neither the time nor means nor wherewithal to get all of our own news firsthand. Although I’m an ardent Apple loyalist, I imagine that I would have appreciated hearing about the exploding Samsung Note 7 epidemic from a news source before I had crispy fingers and had suddenly become hard of hearing.

We cannot very well tune into every press conference or comb through Congress.gov every time our legislature comes to an agreement on a bill (trust me, it’s happened on occasion). Without the steady stream of verified, fact-based news reporting, it’d be infinitely tougher to move through our increasingly electronic- and information-based society.

Further, news reporters have long served as a vanguard against the institutions and politicians that might otherwise trample and suppress the rights of citizens. Look no further than the intrepid reporters who broke the news of the Watergate scandal, published the Pentagon Papers or outed certain priests in the Boston area as sexual abusers. There’s such a copious amount of information floating around that we simply cannot discover for ourselves.

Effective journalism is simply an indispensable part of any republic — which is why I find our current president’s hostile, rash and, frankly, childish lambasting of reliable, fact-based news sources troubling.

Trump and his cabinet have revealed just how little they care about the public becoming privy to anything he, in his inexhaustible acumen, thinks we ought not to. He’s given a national security position to Steve Bannon, a so-called journalist whose Breitbart website has shown how little it cares to verify what it publishes by putting forth a blatantly incorrect electoral map and a false story about a mob of Muslims setting fire to a historic church in Germany.

Hardly a day goes by without Trump deriding what he calls “fake news” from publications like the “failing” New York Times simply because they don’t report what he wishes were true. Any verified fact reported in a news story becomes wrong because Trump wills it to be. He’s demonstrated an unwillingness to even speak to reporters he fears don’t view him favorably, on the off chance they might actually write down what he says.

And, please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t even get me started on his counselor’s “alternative facts.”

You don’t have to be Ben Carson (a brain surgeon, get it?) to figure out why the president, his posse and his supporters are so antagonistic toward the news media. The news media are, indeed, biased against Trump, as they are against anyone who yanks lies out of his keister on a whim and tries to serve it to the American people on a silver platter. The reporter’s currency is thorough investigation, reliable sources and verifiable facts, all of which appear to be triggers for Trump.

In light of this antagonism, I encourage everyone to do the exact opposite of what our commander-in-chief would have us do: stay informed. Read, listen to and (if you must) watch the news.  If Trump or any political figure says something — and it matters little whether you like his or her policy — check a journalistic source like The New York Times, The Washington Post or The Richmond Times-Dispatch and see if it holds any water.I also recommend the Pulitzer-winning, non-partisan website Politifact.com, which examines the truth of statements made by politicians. It ought to be no surprise that, at this point, a whopping 70 percent of the president’s statements on the site are “Mostly False,” “False” or “Pants on Fire.”

As has always been the case, good journalism and very real news will be infinitely important in keeping our rulers in check. Let’s all continue to support the institutions that provide us with our news.

Contact contributor Hunter Moyler at hunter.moyler@richmond.edu.


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