President Trump’s distaste for the media is not news. It has become increasingly evident that the news is the main enemy of the Trump Administration and they are willing to go to extreme lengths to limit what journalists can and cannot say. Beginning before his inauguration, in which he called CNN a “fake news” organization during a press conference, the president has outwardly displayed his disliking of specific news organizations, such as the aforementioned CNN, the New York Times, and Politico. His aversion towards these news organizations had yet to affect the job of the press until recently, when press secretary Sean Spicer kept major media sources from entering the daily press briefing on February 24th, including CNN, the New York Times, and Buzzfeed News, .
Beyond barring news organizations from press briefings, Trump has also taken to his personal Twitter account to voice his opinions on specific sources, specifically the New York Times. In one tweet, the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN were addressed as failing, fake news media and called the enemy of the American people. As some of the biggest, most popular media conglomerates in the world, Trump’s distinction of these sources as failing is both hard to understand and entirely untrue.
The aim of political journalism, simply put, is to provide unbiased, factual information on the goings on of the government so that the public can establish a well-informed opinion. The so-called leaky faucet of political leaks to the media, another subject of Trump’s attacks, is one of the ways journalists have been able to keep the government in check and responsible for its actions. These leaks are not new processes that have been introduced with the Trump Administration. They have a longstanding history in government and are another example of unsolicited attacks on the media.
As an aspiring journalist, these confrontations with the media have made me, at the very least, uncomfortable. While I am not interested in covering politics, the way that the media is being portrayed by the president is unfavorable. There is no refuting that Trump has sway amongst the American people. Stemming from a campaign that was heavily influence by media coverage, it is increasingly difficult to believe that someone who owes his successes in part to the media is attacking the very people who helped him win the election. However, the only media he praises is that which paints him in a favorable light. Right-wing media is essentially the only media that Trump consistently endorses and does not call fake news.
The basis of his attacks lies not in fake news, as he often claims, but rather in media that portrays him in an honest, yet unfavorable way. Objective media outlets that print truths about Trump are called fake news; Sean Spicer tells a lie to the American people about the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd, and his falsity is deemed acceptable with the phrase “alternative facts.” Publications that I have long looked up to are being accused of publishing fake news – a phenomenon of entirely fabricated stories, not just stories that the President doesn’t agree with. In this political landscape, you are either on Trump’s side or you’re subjected to his attacks. You are for him or you are against him, even if you don’t necessarily fall entirely on either side of the spectrum. Trump’s recent announcement that he will not attend the White House Correspondence Dinner – essentially a roast of the president and the administration that benefits and gives scholarships to journalism students – is both an example of his fragility and hatred of journalism. In his eyes, anyone critiquing him is fake news and journalists cannot be trusted, so the dinner is a culmination of two of Trump’s least favorite things. It is no surprise that he is the first president since Reagan to not attend (Reagan was recovering from being shot in an assassination attempt, so he gets an excused absence).
It is beyond overwhelming to watch such a powerful figure discredit an entire field of work and its employees, especially one that has held a longstanding job of telling the truth. In a country where people rely almost entirely on the news media to gain insight into politics, watching Trump’s attempts to break down news organizations that have held their rightful place in reporting since the introduction of television, newspapers, and digital media makes me question the future of the field. When the President of the United States shames the field that I hope to one day be a part of, I can only hope that his words will not taint journalism forever.