I try to bite my tongue when it comes to politics. I really do. But lately I’ve been finding it more and more important to speak up for the issues that matter to me and those around me.
Perhaps the latest issue that has struck a chord in me may not be one that many can relate to: it may sound crazy, obsessive, nit-picky. But it’s an issue that has outraged me so far beyond comprehension because of the constitutional foundation it stands on.
The United States is built on a cornerstone of freedom of speech. Beyond this, there is freedom of the press. This gives journalists and press members alike the ability to report, exclaim, rant and share absolutely any words that come to mind without consequence.
In the dawning age of social media and uber sharing, a fine line has been drawn in defining a “journalist.” In a sense, freedom of the press now applies to anyone with a keyboard or a camera phone. The world of journalism is dramatically changing and being challenged to its core because of the public’s ability to document any event in their own bias and viewpoint. As of today, a new challenge has been instated: that of the verbal confirmation that the President of the United States sees the journalistic profession as the “enemy of the American people.”
First, it’s important to acknowledge exactly whom the President is attacking. Though much of the fuel for biased news comes from non-professional individuals on social media, Trump has made a point of directing his criticisms at politically left-leaning news organizations. It’s programs and publications with opposing views to his own which are being criticized as “fake.”
President Donald Trump is not the only authority figure to use the terminology “fake news.” He is not the only individual to reprimand the press for the content they publish, to criticize a source based on personal views. These ideals are being shared from members of the public to journalists in the White House pressroom.
It’s time to clarify exactly what is meant when speaking of “fake news.” There is no denying fake news exists. In my definition, fake news a work of writing, video, or other form of social sharing which defies the laws of ethics in that the vast majority of its contents are exaggerated or utterly invalid. In simpler terms, fake news is anything that is just as it says: fake.
To Trump, fake news is anything that paints him in a bad light and introduces information other than what is included in his administration’s press announcements.
In its true definition, “fake news” should not be an article or source that does not align with one’s personal beliefs or arguments. It is not a term that should be used freely to denounce the work of trained professionals when they are publishing information an individual does not approve of.
Journalists have a job and duty to report the closest thing to identifiable truth. That’s the goal, though the majority of the time, the truth lies somewhere in between the fibs and opinions being told from sources on all sides of a given issue. A quote from a source who expresses an unpopular opinion or exaggerates an idea should not be considered “fake news.” Reporting what an individual says in ethical context is fair game and cannot be reprimanded by those who don’t believe or agree with the source.
We now have a President who ignores the allowed ethics of journalism as well as reviles the power of a publication all based on frustration in his own media-portrayed image. Frankly, it's terrifying for the future of the freedom of the press. We have seen action taken against journalists already, from being slammed on the President's personal Twitter to being ignored at White House press conferences. These accusations of falsity based on personal desire to control and manipulate each story are insulting to all journalistic professionals of every belief and political stance.
In a time period of opinionated statements on every corner of the web, pure and honest attempts at reporting are the only way of guaranteeing a fair perspective and close-up grasp on what’s really happening. If these professional voices are silenced and ignored, disorganization and confusion will follow along with a downgrade in our rights as Americans to fully verbalize whatever it is we wish to say.
The press, while allowed to voice an opinion in specific context, is an institution beyond that. It’s a community built on the pillars of honesty and unbiased reporting, characteristics that are rarely found on an individual’s Twitter feed or Facebook status. Beyond the pages of a news section, impartial statements are scarce. Their only hope is on the front page of a well-respected, trustworthy publication, many of which still thrive though the public is being ordered to doubt this.
It’s more important now than ever to support the publications you love and trust in their abilities to report honestly and effectively. Educate yourself on the stances of the publications of your choosing: there’s nothing wrong with a leaning publication, take Fox News or CNN for example. Just be aware of their bias, and look to other sources for alternate views on a specific issue.
I, along with thousands of journalists, pledge to never stop using our voices in search for the ultimate truth.