The Cardinal

Attack: How the nation’s war on the press is turning literal

A note from a student reporter.


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It was the question posed to audiences time and time again that led to be her signature  catchphrase. First heard in the 1980s, it popped up in shows for decades by powerhouse comedian, the late Joan Rivers. In 2017, with White House Staff and press corps relationship tensions at an all-time high, it’s a question most journalists are posing to President Trump and his administration present day — Can we talk?

The answer thus far, no–or at least–not really.

President Trump led a forceful campaign that was mostly fueled by heated attacks on the media with comments such as “disgusting. . . scum. . . dishonest. . . horrible.” All directed at the “main-stream news media.”

Present day, even stating in a Twitter post that the media is “The enemy of the American people.”

Katy Tur, a proclaimed “Road Warrior,” attended nearly every single Trump event, traveling with the campaign press corps, during the 2016 campaign–reporting for NBC News and MSNBC.

In that nearly two year span, Trump found no issue singling Tur out, at the podium, in the open, along with many others like her, all huddled on that press riser in the back of the room with thousands watching–booing.

“Little Katy, she’s back there,” said Trump, going on to critique her reporting and the coverage produced by NBC’s News division as a whole.

“What a lie it was for NBC to have printed that,” shouted an angered Trump in front of a fired up crowd.

But it wasn’t just NBC on the receiving end–and it wasn’t just Trump throwing the fire.

The “failing New York Times said Trump on Twitter, the “Clinton News Network,” he screamed on stage, in reference to CNN, even going as far to ban the Washington Post from the campaign’s traveling press corps due to his personal unfavorability with the paper.
An action that may have led to the paper’s new slogan: “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” unveiled shortly after Trump took the oath of office in January.

Lines like these and those similar from now-President Trump didn’t leave him in a stand-alone majority.

Unfavorability and distrust of the media is at a record high. Just 32% of Americans possess a positive view of the nation’s news/ media networks according to a recent Gallup poll–a number that has seen a continuing decrease since the Election Day polling flub in November of 2016 that left viewers in shock when Donald Trump took the presidency from Hillary Clinton’s nearly confirmed win by most polls presented by news platforms.

Today, the attacks have continued, the rhetoric swirls, and the endless questions pile up.

Most–including myself–don’t know what to do or how to deal with the President and his administration’s conduct in office.

Actions such as Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, spewing false information–dare I say–lies–on network television, promoting the President’s daughter, Ivanka Trump’s fashion line live on Fox News–a government ethics violation.

White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, beginning his time in the press office with an argument of Trump’s inaugural crowd size being larger than that of President Obama’s in 2009 and 2013–a falsehood–as evidenced by photographs.
And who could forget National Security Advisor, General Mike Flynn’s contact with a Russian Ambassador, followed by Flynn lying to Vice President Mike Pence about the situation–or Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ admission that he met with the same Russian Ambassador after denying such conduct in his Senate confirmation hearing–leading to his recusal of an investigation into Russia-Trump contact.

Or even utterances from the President himself, such as his multiple tweets on March 4, suggesting that his immediate predecessor, Former President Obama, ordered wiretaps of Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. A claim with no evidence and intense consequences.

The list goes on. And on. And on.

On the eve of a special election, Greg Gianforte, a congressional candidate in the state of Montana, was the center of talks when news surfaced that he had body-slammed a reporter from The Guardian, after being pressed on the recent CBO score released concerning President Trump’s push to repeal Obama-Care.

After his victory Thursday night in the state, Gianforte said to a crowd of supporters, “I made a mistake.” To which a voter voiced, “Not in our minds!”

In the hours following the incident, pundits predicted the polls would show a democratic sweep of the district.

Actions such as these raise the prospect of a growing stigma in media present day–the issue of trust.

Everyday Americans fail to recognize the overall objective of news as a whole.

We as a society of news-gatherers and story-tellers need to realize that we are a united group all pushing for the same outcome: truth.

Why is it that our nation is in such a deep and disheartening divide? We, as I mentioned, cannot come together on issues pressing our body politic–to realize the goal–the wellbeing of this country.

Our own philosophies, individual ethical standards, and stand-alone convictions for the fates and fortunes of our union with a failure to compromise on points of view both simplistic and not tear us apart.

Gridlock in congress.

Divides at the ballot box.

A single country whose people are leading drastically different lives–a disconnect.  

At the end of the day, we share a common mission.

We are the United States of America. Citizens of one nation before all else.

In the scheme of things, we are the United States of Journalism. Practitioners of a field ever so complex and vital.

As it was written by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in The Elements of Journalism, these are our guiding principals:

  1. Tell the truth.
  2. Be loyal to citizens.
  3. Hold a discipline of verification.
  4. It is essential to maintain independence from those we cover.
  5. We must monitor those in power.
  6. We, as journalists, must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
  7. We strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.
  8. We, as an institution must present the news in a way that is comprehensive and proportional.
  9. We, as practitioners have an obligation to exercise their personal conscience.
  10. Citizens have rights and responsibilities as well–even more so as they become producers and editors themselves.

Let’s place ourselves one step ahead of the rest.

“The quality of our democratic life depends, in short, on the public having the facts and being able to make sense of them. And that, even in a networked age, requires journalists,” wrote Kovach and Rosenstiel.  

We must turn to our fellow Americans, our congressional office-holders, our senate representatives–our President–all alike and seek out our compromise, explain our purpose, and demonstrate our intentions–while respecting all points, all views, with the reminder that our differences cast us on a path toward a more perfect union. And then, with hope, they may step back and recognize our purpose. our importance, much like we appreciate theirs.

What we, the press, need from you is to release us from the painful shackle that is low expectation and allow us to do our job and show you our abilities.

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Attack: How the nation’s war on the press is turning literal