Dear Trump, let us do our job while you do yours

Katie Gruninger, Web editor

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Tension between the White House and the media is at an all time high. These tensions make student journalists like myself question what the journalism field will be like after graduating from college.

Since newspapers originated, the media has had an implied role of serving as a fourth branch of government. America’s press serves as a watchdog of our government and a protector of the American people by letting the world know what the government does.

The United States is a democracy, and because of the First Amendment and the freedom of the press, the government is accountable to the people. Free media is intended to investigate and report to the public any government wrongdoing. Historically, this is what the media has done. And it is what it is continuing to try and do today.

While the American people want to trust the president, they also want the press to cover what he does, both the good and bad. Traditionally, past presidents met with the press often, informing them of their agendas and plans. Trump is taking a new approach. Oftentimes, he makes these posts on his personal Twitter account and then re-tweets from his official POTUS account. An example is a Feb. 12 tweet. @realDonaldTrump said “The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!” These actions have many Americans concerned about the direction of our country and its security.

Without having the media reporting on what the government is doing, who knows what the three branches of government could get away with. Journalists have a track record of exposing the public to government issues that people would not otherwise know of. One of the most famous examples is the Watergate scandal. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, reporters from the Washington Post, exposed former president Richard Nixon’s connection to a break in at the Democratic National Headquarters during the 1970s. The two journalists investigated the story beyond what most reporters did because something seemed off. When Nixon was pushing the media to stop investigating him it only fueled Woodward and Bernstein to follow through and ultimately expose the to the American public who the president really was. The ability of the press to get behind the scenes is what sometimes causes the president and the media to have a complicated relationship. As a reaction, presidents speak out about the media and cast a negative light on them.

The influx of “fake news” is not helping the relationship either. President Trump has used the term to refer to stories the president doesn’t like or feel make him look bad. He tends to favor the traditionally conservative news outlets while calling out others for their “fake news,” even when the news is accurate. Trump’s top advisors also use the term regularly, and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway even used the term “alternative facts” during an interview on Meet the Press Jan. 22 after she was questioned on something press secretary Sean Spicer said. It seems President Trump and his top advisors continue to use the term in an effort to discredit the media with the American people.

On Feb. 17, President Trump tweeted from his personal account @realDonaldTrump, “The fake news media is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people!” His tweet included the handles for several mainstream media outlets, CNN, NBC News, New York Times, ABC and CBS. Days later, on Feb. 24, Trump banned several media outlets from attending an informal, non-televised briefing. Spicer, banned reporters from CNN, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and others while welcoming others, especially those representing conservative outlets.

“Fake” and “dishonest” are regular insults thrown at media by Trump, and he’s even gone so far as to label them as the “opposition party.” In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, he said “the dishonesty, the total deceit and deception makes them certainly partially the opposition party, absolutely.” This name-calling and these accusations are a huge insult to journalists who are only doing their job by reporting on the president to the American people.

His actions and claims from the White House of “fake news” and “alternative facts” have left Americans confused and misinformed. Many don’t even know who to believe anymore, which is what he seems to want. This directly influences student journalists who want to pursue a career in this field. When a president tells people not to trust the press it’s discrediting all journalists.

Trump’s recent remarks about the media have even led to other members of the Republican speaking out against them. In an interview with “The Today Show” Feb. 27, former president George W. Bush fully backed up the press and its job of relaying the news of government to the American people. During his interview, he said, “I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. We need an independent media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive. And it can be corrosive. And it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”

As student journalists, it’s challenging and disheartening to have a president tell the public not to believe the press or what they are reporting. A true journalist reports the facts to the people. In my high school journalism classes, I’ve been taught to tell every side of the story and to only report on news that can be proven factual. We are taught about the first amendment, which guarantees freedom of the press and the important cases in history that helped shape scholastic journalism into what it is today. This echoes what we learn in our history classes.

Watching President Trump attack the press and ruin its credibility with the American public is hard to watch. It’s disheartening to a young girl who has worked hard in her high school journalism courses and who plans to pursue a career in journalism after college. The fear is we are going back to a time when journalists weren’t respected and newspapers were suppressed for reporting news the higher ranking officials didn’t like or agree with.

The relationship between the president and the press doesn’t have to be complicated. Although Trump is not the first to have issues with the press, his relationship with it might be the most complex. While Franklin D. Roosevelt opted for his famous fireside chats in order to directly talk to the American people, Teddy Roosevelt viewed the press as a way to promote his agendas while in the White House and regularly invited them to his negotiations. The presidency is the most important leadership role in our country. As president, Trump has the ability to affect many and this includes the public’s opinion of the press. If he continues down the road he’s currently on, the reputation of the media will soon be ruined and the people will no longer have a source of news.

One of the major factors affecting the relationship between President Trump and the press is social media. Although former president Obama also used social media, Trump’s reputation on Twitter preceded his presidency. He has never hesitated to speak out against somebody with differing opinions or call people out for actions or comments he dislikes or disagrees with. He’s been in many well-known Twitter feuds and is known for is late night and early morning rants on Twitter. This behavior has continued into his presidency, with the media being his main target.

The combination of social media and the presidency has definitely been a challenge for journalists. Our current and previous president have both used it as a way to connect with the public. While using social media as a president can be good for relating to Americans on a personal level, it’s still important to recognize the importance of the media. Hopefully, Trump can have a better relationship with the media in the future and realize that the media isn’t the opposition. Journalists are just doing their job, holding the president accountable for his actions. Trump should follow suit and do his.