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Student Journalists’ Takes on an Increasingly Anti-Journalist World

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UFL chapter.

As a journalism major, understanding the good, the bad and the ugly of the journalism sphere has become more important, especially in a society that has developed a deep distrust of the media.

When thinking of high-stakes jobs, journalism doesn’t normally top the list. I’ve always thought of a job in journalism as being a generally safe career, but as I’ve risen through the J-School, it’s become clear that it isn’t always the case. Over the past few years, journalism has been engulfed in a cloud of mistrust, stemming from an administration that uses the term “fake news” on a daily basis.

Personally, I’ve never understood the amount of public distrust and even anger surrounding the field of journalism until I became a part of it. When someone is reporting on a controversial topic, backlash is common. What is new, however, is the lack of protection and accessibility from the government.

I would argue that the government has never been a fan of the media. This has become more apparent in the past year since records requested under the Freedom of Information Act turned up with “censored files or nothing in 78 percent of 823,222 requests, a record over the past decade,” according to the Associated Press. In an age of overall distrust of the media, the opinions of student journalists are a way to gauge a new generation of reporters.

Madison Black, a sophomore journalism major at the University of Florida, has a steadfast mentality of being truthful in all of her reporting. However, she knows that the era of fake news reflects on her as well as journalists across the country. She’s had family members question why she wants to be a journalist “when it’s all fake anyway.”

“I think you have to be wary of any journalism role you take because I think it’s going to be difficult, especially if I were to go into anything that dealt with politics,” Black said. “It’s really hard because you’re going to have people that don’t like you and don’t like the story that you put out, whether or not it’s the truth.”

Black said other journalists have even claimed their fellow journalists’ stories are biased. She said that journalism can be ostracizing, and young journalists have to be ready to accept that. Getting your feelings hurt or being questioned is a part of the job, and surrounding yourself with people who aren’t going bring up your reported work can be important, Black said.

“I think you need to surround yourself with people in your life who aren’t going to take your work to your personal life,” Black said. “There has to be some sort of separation.”

Journalism has become more radical over the years as blog posts and publications try to become more relevant by catering to certain audiences’ viewpoints. However, exaggerated news creates an atmosphere where people can say something is fake. As a journalism major, it’s hard to face this concept because I’ve been taught how to spot ‘fake news’ and how to uncover facts. Black said that she often reads multiple news articles and compare the facts in them to come to her own conclusion of the truth.

Journalism, at its core, is meant to be a check on the government. However, it can be concerning when the people who are absorbing the information no longer believe it.

Taylor Martin, a sophomore journalism major at UF, said she received backlash for the first story she’d ever written.

“I wrote about my hometown and a few of the things that happened there, and I got comments from people who didn’t even live there saying those things didn’t happen,” Martin said.

Martin said we’re in an age of journalism where the media is constantly being questioned, compared to just 10 years ago when there was more trust between consumers and journalists.

“There are people who are so willing to follow what this administration is saying, and it can be scary to think about what someone is willing to do to you if they think you’re reporting something false,” Martin said.

However, Martin believes that the mistrust of journalism now is a phase that our society will hopefully grow out of. She’s optimistic of the future of journalism and how people perceive  journalists.

It will take time for the relationship between the public and journalists to be repaired, but it’s not impossible. Student journalists are being educated in a time when it’s more important than ever to be able to defend the truthfulness of their own work. Young journalists are the people who can repair the divide, and the only way to do that is through reporting the truth.

Michaela is a third-year journalism major at the University of Florida and is currently majoring in journalism. You can find her soaking up the Florida sun at the beach, shopping at a thrift store, or in the front row of a local band's show. Her friends, good coffee and a book are one of the many things that keep her smiling every day.