“Stunning Trump Win.” A headline that seems like it is from a nightmare. It is my personal belief that the American people have made a grave mistake electing this man as President. I can concede that the choice may not have been easy. Additionally, I do not think the choice was reached via explicit malicious intent against minorities, but rather a large portion of the population’s gross misunderstanding of reality. I accredit the decision to an unhealthy dose of skepticism. Nevertheless, in terms of economics, race relations, international affairs, political corruption, and the environment, amongst a multitude of other fronts, I believe this was a regressive move. While all of these issues point to a bleak future, one facet is, without a doubt, the most frightening to me. I am terrified due to the imperiled state of free press. The Republican Party will inevitably control all three traditional branches of government in the immediate future: the legislative, executive and judicial. Checks and balances, as the founders had intended, will be rendered useless by a single-party rule. The fourth unofficial branch, namely the media, should be the last bastion of liberty against their authoritarian leader, Donald Trump. However, Trump has already proven to have a personal vendetta against the media, and he has led his supporters to distrust and attempt to dismantle it through every available avenue. By instilling the idea that those in opposition cannot be trusted, Trump denies civil discourse its rightful spot in the press. Investigative journalism has been labelled as unfair and reports of Trump’s statements at face value as biased. Under the next administration, the role of the media may change. If it continues on its current trajectory, I believe the consequences will be disastrous for the nation.
On his first day as President-Elect, Donald Trump ignored historical precedent and did not allow members of the mainstream media to accompany his entourage. To me, this is indicative of a potentially devastating trend we are facing. The media’s role in politics is symbiotic; if one of the two deteriorates for any reason, the other cannot possibly function properly. It is the media’s duty to be the watchdog for corruption and inform the public of their elected officials’ actions. Conversely, government entities cannot properly do their duties as public servants without the bridge of communication provided by the press. They rely on the press to inform the public on laws, gather feedback and encourage political participation.
Donald Trump has threatened to change the nature of libel laws and accused the media of corruption to a point where they can not execute their duties as the nation requires them to do. As a nominee, Trump did not have much formal power over the media. Yet, even before he was slated to become one of the most powerful men in the world, he made leaps toward shutting down anyone who painted him negatively. He banned sources he deemed unfair from rallies, even when they quoted him verbatim. Who is to say that President Trump will not go even further to impede the media from printing the truth if he does not agree with their stories? I fear Trump’s relationship with the media will effectively hide his serious past and future scandals from American citizens.
The irony is that this tirade against biased media does not extend to the reporting favorable to Trump’s campaign. Breitbart, an “Alt-Right” media outlet, non-discretely celebrated Trump’s election victory. On their homepage the day after, they advertised a “commemorative election package” from their official store. To any outside observer, this shows bias towards Trump. A blatant celebration implies favoritism. However, there was never any restriction placed on this newsroom. Donald Trump does not stand for fair journalism; he stands for journalism beneficial to him. To complicate matters further, Trump hired a former editor of Breitbart to be his chief strategist. This will simply make an already complex relationship even more complicated.
The media as we know it faces a crossroads. Public perception of the news has been aggravated. The population is polarized, and fringe news sources are pushing people further to the extremes of their political ideology. Neither side is without fault. People trust their niche sources alone, and discredit any other entities. Now, more than ever, we need fact-based, fair news outlets that everyone can trust. However, fair does not mean equal quantity of hit pieces, but rather equivalent opportunity and an open mind to all when considering leads. In my opinion, the job of the press is treating all sides of the story as valid until proven otherwise.
While I argue against a post-factual society, I do not think this issue can be solved purely using pathos. Writers must not be condescending to those on the opposite side of the political spectrum. Dissenting opinion must not be degraded, as Trump supporters felt theirs were; compassion and explanation are necessities in coverage. This was a key issue, one that led the nation into Trump’s hand. Before he takes office, and closes that hand into an iron fist, we, as the media, must reform. I love this nation; I am passionate about doing my part to save it. I promise to work in order to discover the truth, no matter whose career is made or damaged. This Presidency will change the role of the media forever, and I wish to help ensure that change is for the better.