As a journalist, I’m not bothered by President Trump’s attacks on the media

The role of the press is to keep the powerful accountable, and that's what Trump is afraid of

I am no fan of many of President Trump’s policies or his temperament, but I have a confession of my own that could be controversial to some: I’m not offended by his criticism of the media. 

As millennials, we are the first generation to have access to all the information we need almost instantly. But as we look at this information it's important to remember: Take everything said by those in authority with more than a few grains of salt. 

When he calls CNN "fake news", refers to BuzzFeed as a "failing pile of garbage" and even hurls personal insults at a certain Meet the Press anchor, it doesn’t really bother me.

Don’t get me wrong: I think freedom of the press is one of the most important aspects of our Constitution. In many ways, it has allowed the U.S. to not slide into authoritarianism by keeping our public officials accountable, even if the press itself has often abdicated its own responsibility to keep the American people well informed.

And some may see this as going against my own self-interest as an ASU journalism student who plans to make his way into the media market after he graduates.

But why should I care if President Trump wants to bully the press? Yes, it bothers me that the President of the U.S. is downgrading the importance of one of America’s most important institutions. 

According to Gallup, only 32 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the Mass Media.

But when I see Trump go up on stage and get riled up about the media another word comes to my mind: Good.

One of the most famous journalism-related quotes is that the job of the media is to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

When President Trump condemns and attempts to bully the media, he comes from a place of fear. He is the comfortable feeling the weight of the press’s affliction. 

Him and his administration know the powers that the press have to keep him and his administration accountable, to reveal some of their most deeply embarrassing and controversial moments to the public.

Let’s not forget that the press were the ones who spread to the masses that Coretta Scott King had written a letter opposing Attorney General Jeff Sessions nomination for a federal judgeship, citing his “reprehensible conduct” in his alleged attempt to “intimidate and frighten” black voters in Alabama during his time as a U.S. Attorney.

Or that they were the ones who publicized the Congressional Budget Office estimate that the GOP-penned American Health Care Act would cause 24 million Americans to be uninsured by 2026, helping to lead to its paltry 17 percent approval rating from the American people, and its eventual failure to even get a vote in the House.

Let’s not act like this is anything new.

There are a few parallels to many of Trump’s actions towards the media, according to Brooks D. Simpson, an ASU history professor who has done much of his work on presidential history.

"The closest parallel in the minds of a lot of people is Richard Nixon, who had an openly hostile relationship with the press, and sometimes would have angry one-on-ones with reporters,” Simpson said. “Nixon was convinced that the print and television media were out to get him.”

One thing that Simpson said was a bit more unprecedented, and comparable to the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts, was Trump’s desire to "open up" up libel laws to make it easier to sue news organizations.

“He'd like to broaden libel and slander treatments to be fairly broad, and would walk back against New York Times’ v. Sullivan for example, and would negate a lot of the freedoms of the press that have been sanctified by court decisions,” Simpson said referring to a 1964 Supreme Court case which created the “actual malice” standard for libel.

I too, am worried about his rhetoric regarding libel laws, but it doesn’t seem like something he can have very much influence in affecting anyhow, and so as long as it remains rhetoric, I think laws regarding defamation will be okay.

All of the journalism students at ASU should stand steadfast in keeping our president accountable for his actions. We can't let him bully us out of our profession that is more important now than ever.

If President Trump wants a battle with the press then so be it. He may lash out and call them the Enemy of the American People but it won’t deter him as they are hot on his trail, helping to reveal the next new controversy that his administration has gotten themselves into. And as long as we are afflicting the comfortable, journalism will survive a Trump administration.


Reach the columnist at Marinodavidjr@gmail.com or follow @Marinodavidjr on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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