I am so tired of people trying to bait me – masters though they may be – or to incite a “gotcha!” moment because of my concern for what’s happening in this country, and specifically with what’s happening to journalism. President Trump is willfully – using lies told so often they sound like truth to his followers – trying to destroy one of the only actual professions protected by the Constitution. All of the things our new president is trying to do with the country, all of his proposed policies, all of his relationships with and/or plans for China, Israel, North Korea, Russia, etc. – none of it will be clear to America without journalists. And Trump has made it clear that this is his goal.
If I read one more “mainstream media” insult or “all media are liars!” claim, my head will blow clean off my shoulders. Evidently many people do not understand what “media” encompasses, which includes television, radio, broadcast, film, newspapers, websites like BuzzFeed and TMZ and podcasts and YouTube and every single blog out there with an opinion – including this one. Let me make this claim, for those who do not understand this: This site is not news. It is opinion.
Credible news sites use professionally trained reporters, who understand and adhere to the Journalistic Code of Ethics, who quote sources and have fact-checked to their satisfaction that what they are printing is the truth. And here’s another point that gets sticky:
What they’re saying may not, in fact, be the truth. However, that doesn’t mean that what they’re reporting is not. Let me break it down, and this is hypothetical for teaching purposes:
If the leader of, for example, the Democratic Party said, “The Democratic Party did not railroad Bernie Sanders in its efforts to give Clinton the presidential nomination,” and a newspaper reported that the leader of the Democratic Party said this, IT WOULD BE THE TRUTH. The fact that he said it would be the truth. The paper is not saying that the Party did not interfere with Sanders’ campaign, which MAY OR MAY NOT be true. But the fact that the leader of the Party said it is, in fact, true. And there are those who would interpret that as biased, claiming the newspaper is siding with Clinton. Which, again, would NOT BE TRUE.
This seems to be a sticking point for many people. They may not always like what they read, but that doesn’t mean it is not true. People now have to become a little more critical in their news consumption, a little more skeptical when reading news stories that don’t quote credible sources, a little more curious about how a meme came to be going around Facebook. Memes are not news. Anyone can make a meme, the same way anyone can make a blog.
So for planning purposes, the most credible news sites, according to Business Insider, continue to be the historically most credible – New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS. And local papers are often a bastion of unbiased information. The key? You might have to pay. Because it’s a business, and journalists need to eat just like everyone else. If you want free news, you go to BuzzFeed and TMZ and hope for the best. In the free department, I would recommend ProPublica, where you only hit a paywall for access to certain departments. Otherwise, I would suggest that you get, in fact, what you pay for.
President Trump has assailed the entire profession of journalism with his recent “Journalists are the most dishonest people” claim and his affection for labeling as “fake news” anything that presents him in a critical light. Are mistakes made? Yes. Journalists are human. A Time magazine reporter erred in his reporting about the MLK bust, acknowledged and apologized within a half hour. But credible news sites will not engage in overt attempts at publishing fake news – a truth that Trump is trying to convince America is a lie. If one teacher has an affair with a student, are all teachers suspect? No.
Trump is trying to erode America’s trust in journalism so that his agenda will be the only news to which we have access. He is telling us that what we’re seeing with our own eyes is not true. And when you see him and his cabinet, with your own eyes, slowly backing into a bunker someday while claiming, “This isn’t what it seems; everything is okay,” you’re going to have to choose which to believe.