Trump’s fake news rhetoric falls flat
Oh Donald J. Trump, so we meet again, yet this time on a very different note. Do not get me wrong, I am a staunch conservative- a committed Trump supporter. But I am also a fierce journalist, one who works my ass off to interview, uncover stories, dig into the deepest of facts, and show support in listening to my opposition’s stances. It would be ignorant of any Trump supporter to love every action the man makes. However, I am a journalist, a part of the media, and to have my integrity as a journalist questioned by a “fake news” blanket term he has placed above us all, is beyond me.
In the beginning of Trump’s media rhetoric, his points were somewhat valid- there were sources of exaggerated news, even truly fake news- within major media outlets. But delving deeper into the presidency, it has become apparent that he is out to get any biased media that is against him- using considerable accusations against liberal news sources such as CNN, citing them as “fake” or “unreputable.” No conservative journalist should be happy about this, and frankly, a lot are unsettled. Writer for CNN or not, this is a considerable accusation against the integrity of the media- a tone that affects the entire journalism community, and a pointless tangent in Trump’s presidency that is walking a serious line with the first amendment.
“I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there.” -Donald Trump
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, Trump said, “I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there.”
Any journalist who has studied the very 45 words of the first amendment should have rising hairs over his statement- and this is not the only time Trump has dabbled in the idea of restricting the media. However, the laws regarding anonymous sources aren’t as loose as Mr. Trump considers them to be, in fact, journalists face a lot of potential legal issues with anonymous sources- prompting mainstream media to stray away from the idea.
Guidelines from the Reporters Committee stated, “If you promise a source you will not reveal its identity, you must be prepared to honor that guarantee or face legal consequences for failing to do so. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment does not shield from liability a reporter who breaches a promise of anonymity to a source who relied on that promise to its detriment and, as a result, suffered an injustice that should be remedied.”
Today, although reporters believe they have the right to keep sources confidential, the courts system has the right to compel reporters to divulge a source, and in doing so, can conduct a proper criminal investigation- if due grounds lead to a legal case.
James Wilson, author of American Government said, “Reporters believe they should have the right to keep confidential the sources of their stories. Some states agree and have passed laws to that effect. Most states and the federal government do not agree, so the courts must decide in each case.”
“Reporters believe they should have the right to keep confidential the sources of their stories. Some states agree and have passed laws to that effect. Most states and the federal government do not agree, so the courts must decide in each case.” -James Wilson
In one case, Myron Farber, writer for The New York Times, wrote multiple reports leading to the indictment and trial of a physician convicted of five murders. Farber, who was ordered by the courts to hand over his notes of the anonymous sources, refused and was jailed on contempt of court. Any journalist understanding this potential fate will consider their well being over defaming Trump.
What Trump is battling is an adversarial press- cynicism and distrust in government, which has brought the modern journalism trend to “attack journalism,” seizing upon any bit of information or rumor that may call into question the qualifications of a public official. And rightfully so, Trump’s actions can be questioned by anyone, it is freedom of speech.
Wilson said, “Politicians generally need the media to mobilize supporters, combat challenges, communicate information and enact (or block) legislation. Even in the first days of the Republic, the media mattered mightily to many politicians.”
And maybe that might just be it, yes there are quite a few fake stories (in example when The Washington Post ran the breathless headline “Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, U.S. officials say” an unsourced narrative which turned out to be false). But the Trump Administration relies heavily on the news to push his message, and when he cannot break through to liberal media, he attacks. This does not give the media rights to wrongly report in falsity, but it does give them the right to be bias in regards to his aggressive statements.
“Politicians generally need the media to mobilize supporters, combat challenges, communicate information and enact (or block) legislation. Even in the first days of the Republic, the media mattered mightily to many politicians.” -James Wilson
Despite the recent press conference being a jumbled joke- a mess, mainstream media is not 100 percent foolproof. If a headline is false, the story is false. The recurrent theme is that the neon banner of a headline now becomes the story, such as the breathless headline from The Washington Post being tweeted and shared on facebook a bunch of times, spreading the false rhetoric. The media is large, mistakes happen- fake news, exaggerated news, false ‘leaks’ do occur. However, with a motive or not, the president cannot use a blanket term over us all- we are largely his voice whether he likes it or not.
So yes, Mr. Trump, go ahead and accuse us more- all you will receive is a biased slap in the face, then you can complain more. Journalists have resorted to attack journalism simply over cynicism and distrust in government, but even with motives, the large majority of journalists stray away from anonymous sources due to threats to their personal reputation. A few stories does not make a trend, and this is coming from a sworn Trump supporter. Trumps arguments against media are not as backed as he believes them to be, and need to be let up before her crosses the dangerous line that is the first amendment; the very 45 words that Trump believes is ‘too loose’ in governing the media.