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The War On Journalism In Trump’s America

In his few months in office since his January inauguration, Donald Trump has repeatedly diminished the traditional behaviours of American presidents by forming his own genre of politics. He mocks disabled reporters on national television, threatens to put his opposing presidential candidate in jail, and attempts to enforce a travel ban that only furthers the divide between cultures in America. He’s introduced a “new normal” to the world; a set of perspectives that allows him to say whatever he wants while still expecting to be respected for it.

Those who support Donald Trump often identify his public behaviour as him being ‘real’; if he’s grumpy, then he’s going to act grumpy, if he’s frustrated, then he has the right to express his frustration. He’s a politician that says whatever he wants because he wants to be a politician for the people. Words are just words, that’s his brand – freedom of speech is what got him into office. When you’re president, you are able to say what you want whenever you want and still expect the utmost respect from the public.

Unfortunately, Trump expects this freedom to only apply to himself and criticizes those whose profession releases information on current and important affairs – journalists.

The War On Journalism In Trump's America

Trump speaking to a crowd of reporters. (Image Source: CNN)

Most recently, mentioning the word ‘journalist’ is like referencing Voldemort from the Harry Potter series – it’s a risk to even speak the term, for a battle had been declared on the media the moment Trump started his presidential campaign. He’s commented on his annoyance with the press multiple times, though in the months that have followed his presidential inauguration, his rivalry with journalism has only grown.

In January, after visiting the CIA headquarters a few days into his administration, he acknowledged his dispute with the press, telling the room of people that he has a “running war with the media.”

The comment came as a response to the photos comparing Trump’s inauguration crowd to Obama’s, in which the latter had significantly more people. Trump promptly threw a tantrum, saying the press was “lying” and that reporters were “the most dishonest human beings on earth.”

Like most comments Trump has made, no president has ever said such a thing. It has become a rising problem that borderline threatens the nation’s freedom of the press.

And it isn’t the first time, for he and his team have been public in their disagreements with media outlets such as CNN and Fox News. The list below covers the recent incidents he’s initiated against the press:

  • During inauguration week, the Trump hotel in Washington banned journalists from entering the building.
  • His transition team said they wanted to evict the media from the White House press room. “They are the opposition party,” a senior official told Esquire. “I want ‘em out of the building.”
  • During a press conference, he signaled out a CNN reporter, calling him “fake news,” and said Buzzfeed News was a “failing pile of garbage.”
  • He accused The New York Times of prompting national protests on his Twitter account.
  • He broke protocol by traveling without the customary pool of reporters
  • In February of 2017, he banned several media outlets from an off-camera press briefing.

This list, and the multiple incidents that weren’t included in it, only covers the first five months of his presidency. He still has four years left of his term.

The War On Journalism In Trump's America

An example of Trump tweeting about the press (Image Source: Metro)

Trump and his team have encouraged the public not to trust the media, but I’m not exactly sure why. The purpose of journalism is about telling the truth, regardless of whether or not the person likes it. Journalists usually aren’t the ones publishing their opinions – although like every job, there are those who defy their profession’s ethics – they rather act as a messenger, providing the public with information they would otherwise not be able to access.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air.”

Journalism has been around before people even knew what to call it, as the discussion of current affairs is a pastime that has been active for centuries. It has grown since then, for the invention of paper and broadcast has allowed journalists to extend their voice across nations and even the world.

Journalists lend their voices to those who do not have one, travel to war-torn countries in order to bring awareness. It isn’t only a profession, but a sacrifice. They challenge authorities and are unafraid of the consequences. It is why journalists are excluded from Donald Trump’s political circle, he doesn’t like the attention of the media because he’s aware of the lengths they will go to uncover the truth. 

Like many other heroes, they die for what they believe in: James Foley, a war correspondent in Syria, was the first American to be killed by ISIS; in early 2015, 12 journalists lost their lives after radical Islamists open fired on the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris.

These people died for providing information to an otherwise uninformed world. An attack on journalists is an attack on all of us, for if those whose job it is to speak the truth are in danger, then aren’t we all?

The War On Journalism In Trump's America

American journalist James Foley who was beheaded by ISIS in 2014 (Image Source: ABC News)

In a time where journalists are being publicly ridiculed by an American president, people should be supporting them. Society should encourage journalists to continue their fight against poor leadership and the people of power who think they can escape public criticism due to their authoritative influence.

“When journalists are under surveillance by governments it undermines their ability to report accurately and to hold those in power to account,” says Emma Daly for Human Rights March. “It also puts their sources at risk – the very same technology that allowed activists and citizen journalists to expose official corruption and abuse during the Arab Spring is used against them. And then we all suffer.”

Journalists help guide the path towards truth. We need them, and they need us. They need us to stand with them the way that they have for us. If we can’t do that, then Trump’s censorship on the media will only grow, and we won’t have anyone to rely on for the truth except a government that supports Donald Trump.

Author

The War On Journalism In Trump's America
Alexis is currently studying journalism at Ryerson University. Her interests include politics, social issues, and global conflict.