Pressing Issues of the Press

We, as journalists, have studied the famous case of the Watergate scandal that happened in Richard Nixon’s time in the White House. The editorial staff has learned about the importance of checking in on government, and most obviously, the powerful role of the Press. It has been engrained into the minds of journalism students that the press would do their best to warn and protect the people if there is any form of wrongdoing in any of the branches. This goes for positive things as well – the Press is an overall information source for people everywhere.

Now, President Donald Trump is in office and has been making some waves with the media, something that he has had ups and downs with his entire campaign. Trump’s Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, said in a press conference, “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile.”

This begs the question, should the press do such a thing?

It’s no surprise that the President would like his privacy. For instance, one editor brought the issue of misrepresentation to light in explaining his relationship with the media. This editor said, “As Ben Parker in Spiderman would say, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ We, as journalists, have the power to investigate. We have the power to share stories in an unbiased manner and inform the public of key issues. But, when agendas are prevalent, we have the power to influence and wrongfully mislead, and that counteracts the core values that we as journalists should preserve. I think that is what Trump – or any appointed person in power – fears: skewed news and misrepresentation.”

With millions of users on social media sites, it’s not uncommon to come across the “fake news” that makes widespread, inaccurate news so accessible. Essentially, this is the type of news that anyone can create – news without fact checks or credible sources. It is a piece of persuasion that a person is trying to get a crowd to agree with. This is dangerous because anyone can post anything on a blog page or social media outlet, and people will believe it.

Fake news is certainly something that we could do without. However, it is undoubtedly a First Amendment right to be able to express yourself and say what’d you’d like to, so we can’t stop this from happening. It’s important to remember that we can freely express ourselves under our First Amendment right, and so can the Press. In fact, it’s crucial to our functioning government.

“I would argue that it is the mandate of the Press to deeply scrutinize the administration,” said Professor of Journalism, John Morano. “The reason ‘freedom of the Press’ is granted in the First Amendment is not to encourage the Press to stay on the sidelines. To the contrary, it is granted so that the Press can examine those in power, fulfilling their Fourth Estate role, without fear of government retribution or restriction so that we might have an informed public.”

“The role of the Press in government, in my opinion, is really important because it helps draw the attention of the public,” one editor said. “The Press and news outlets and media in general are a few of the only ways that civilians can get their hands on what is happening not only in the world but right here in our own towns, states, country, and world.”

Without the Press, we would have an extremely hard time finding out exactly what’s going on in our world. As average citizens, we would never be able to check on government the way that the Press does, and we’d never know if there was wrongdoing happening.

There are so many countries whose Press outlets don’t have nearly as much freedom as we do in the United States, and we should keep this in mind. It’s a privilege to live in a country where citizens can be as involved and informed in government decisions as we are. This aspect can’t go to waste out of the fear of misinformation spreading.

There is no way to please everyone out there because of the many opposing viewpoints when it comes to politics. One thing that Trump should keep in mind is that he makes himself an easy target to the media through his reactions to certain situations. One editor commented, “Trump is an extremely outspoken person to say the least. The Press runs with people like this. He is an easy target for negative Press.”

As time in office passes, The Outlook believes that Trump will learn better ways to handle the media and ways to deal with it. This is the beginning of his administration, so with time, his experience with bad Press and fake news will hopefully decrease.

And as for young, aspiring journalists, your journey does not end here. According to Morano, his advice is quite simple: “Tell the truth and be fair. It’s awfully difficult for someone to get into real trouble ethically or legally if they are being fair, to all parties, and telling as complete a truth as possible. If you’re doing that, then most other things will work themselves out naturally.”