Journalism used to be the public’s watchdog. In the 70’s, people were glued to the pages of The Washington Post as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke the Watergate Scandal, effectively leading to President Nixon’s resignation. Hundreds of millions of people watched O.J. Simpson as he was declared not guilty of murder on live broadcast. Citizens trusted the media to be a fair, transparent entity that kept the world accountable- and most importantly, made reporting the truth the number one priority.
Now, however, the industry is a bit different. Newspapers are tossed in the trash, under the threat of “fake news.” Alternative facts are being presented as reality on broadcast television. President Donald Trump declared a war on the media, and yet in an interview with Times magazine, spoke a total of 10 falsehoods in his 30-minute interview.
It’s clear that the industry is struggling to stay afloat in the U.S., as trust levels continue to plummet. Columbia Journalism Review’s Kyle Pope wrote on the day after the 2016 election, the media’s failure to understand and accurately cover Trump’s rise to presidency was the “anti-Watergate” moment-and it shows. A poll by Gallup found that Americans’ trust in the media reached its lowest level in 2017: a dismal 32 percent.
But Americans can’t be blamed for feeling this way- as news sources become less objective and more skewed, it’s probably a good idea to take in everything you hear with a grain of salt-I know I do. Personally, it’s hard not to feel dejected and threatened, and not only as just a prospective journalist, but as a citizen of the U.S. As the war on truth goes nuclear, it seems easier to hold up a white flag in defeat and give up. However, it’s at times like these where charging on and fighting for accountability matters most. If the public can’t rely on the media to tell the truth, who can they rely on? Kellyanne Conway, with her “alternative facts?"
It's up to journalists, and all U.S. citizens, to battle “fake news”. As Lorraine E. Branham writes, truth is at war, but it’s also a journalists’ greatest ally. Truth-seeking it out, sharing it against propaganda and lies, demanding for it-is at the heart of fair reporting. It’s an integral puzzle piece of the democracy and freedom that makes America what it is today.
Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter in 1786, “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without the danger of losing it.” When news is distorted and inaccurate, it hurts us all-not just journalists, but all Americans too, regardless of political affiliation.
Now, more than ever, it’s time to remind everyone why journalism matters; why truth matters. It’s time to stop letting misinformation shape public opinion and discourse.
So, support investigative journalism. Advocate for digital literacy. Get the news from different sources and research before forming an opinion. As for journalists, we need to further promote the basic tenants of the career: sourcing, fact checking, keeping agencies transparent and following the truth- it's more crucial than ever.
Let the president call the media “fake” and “the enemy of the people.” If being "the enemy of the people" is what it takes to keep transparency and accountability alive, then so be it. I will gladly take on that title.
So, the “war on truth" will wage on. But it’s not going down without a fight.