By Evan Walsh, Chief Copy Editor
I’ve been called a lot of bad things, but it seems now, in this “post-truth” era, that the thing I should most want to avoid being called is a “journalist.”
While reporters such as Bob Woodward and Ida Tarbell were once celebrated for defending our democratic standards of transparency, the press is now suddenly an inconvenience.
That is a problem.
No individual or institution is as responsible for this as President Donald J. Trump and his new administration. From the beginning of his unlikely run for the presidency, Trump initiated the antagonistic relationship with the press that he has worked hard to maintain even now as sitting president.
Nobody expects the press and government to have a particularly cozy relationship, but that does not excuse the treatment reporters have been given. It also doesn’t excuse the gag rules which have been imposed on senior members of his cabinet—First Amendment be damned.
Relegated to White House basements where they are asked to make sense of 140 character tweets (about who knows what), reporters are feeling their president’s scorn. And they’re not taking it well.
The Columbia Journalism Review issued a statement on Jan. 12 that rather than compete with each other, the media are ready to work with each other to cover Trump’s administration and to hold it accountable.
Pete Vernon, writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, put forth that statement, saying, “Journalism is a competitive business, but it’s not a zero sum game.” That cohesiveness—grounded in a commitment to truth telling—is refreshing.
But with this particular administration there appears to be no limits … and the back and forth continues. In the words of Steve Bannon, senior adviser to Trump, “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while … The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
It’s not entirely unreasonable to understand his criticisms when we consider the internal bleeding of credibility that has taken place as a consequence of publishing “fake news.”
Fake news delegitimizes the credibility of real news and makes Tomi Lahren, a pundit for TheBlaze, look informed. If, however, Trump continues to send news teams to their graves, then that’s who we’ll be left with.
In another telling example of the fight Trump has picked with the media, this time over “fake news,” Trump shot down CNN’s Jim Acosta as he was preparing to ask a question related to claims of Russian interference in last fall’s election. That question deserves a serious answer, but because BuzzFeed followed up the story that CNN had originally published with unsubstantiated reports of their own, Acosta never got the serious answer he deserved.
The Trump Administration and fake news are doing their best to sabotage truth. So if being a “journalist” is what it takes to get the truth, then everyone from Fox to MSNBC should want to be called that nasty name.