The media is our closest ally

The media is our closest ally

CW / Kylie Cowden

Most of us keep up to date on political news via the media. Without it, how would we know the results of elections, debates and hearings? How else would we be able to livestream filibusters, or laugh (or grit our teeth) at political commentators’ articles and shows? Most of us don’t have a senator for a cousin or a next-door-neighbor, so we need the news to stay current. This being said, without the news, people in politics would have a lot more freedom to do as they please. Without the media functioning as a watchdog, how many more politicians would give into the ever-present temptation to engage in corrupt, unethical activity? What could potentially happen under the table, when nobody was watching, should our news networks suddenly collapse and become unavailable to the average American?

As we ask ourselves these questions, we need to pay careful attention to our president’s perspective on the media. Last Monday, Trump tweeted the following: “Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election.” Minutes later, he followed up with, “I call my own shots, largely based on an accumulation of data, and everyone knows it. Some FAKE NEWS media, in order to marginalize, lies!” He even went so far as to assert that “the media is the opposition party” in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Holding our news outlets accountable plays a vital role in maintaining free speech and the uninhibited spread of dialogue on the issues that matter to us. We can’t have unqualified journalists publishing stories, especially when you consider how easily many of us believe the stories that we see and read on a daily basis. Even if you consider yourself to be pretty good at distinguishing the real from the fake when it comes to news stories, we’re all susceptible to occasionally believing an incorrect statistic or two in a news story. This is why it’s vital that we hold the news to a high standard in the same way that news outlets do with the politicians they report on.

The problem, then, with Trump’s opinions on the news, is that he is not holding media outlets accountable, he is simply dismissing all of them as fraudulent and dishonest. He is not using facts or statistics, or citing techniques of good journalism, to present the American people with a case that may diminish the credibility of the various news outlets we get our information from. Instead, he is simply telling us that if they criticize him, they are wrong. No matter how well-researched or how thoroughly supported with factual evidence, an article that says unpleasant things about our President is, according to him, fake. Not worth reading. Untrustworthy.

The Chief of State of the U.S. is attempting to delegitimize the only avenue by which most of us can obtain political news, which is a powerful and dangerous thing. Trump is trying to undermine the institutions that bring information to American citizens. By insisting that the voice of his administration is the only one worth listening to, he is cutting off communication lines between the higher-ups in American politics and the people who are affected by the policies and behaviors of our nation’s politicians. Again, we have to ask ourselves where we would be if not for media outlets that keep us up to date on the governmental institutions which largely shape our lives and the quality of our lives.

We should all be made a little nervous by our president’s inability to accept any censure at all directed towards him or his administration. As American citizens, we should be ensuring that we do not let Trump’s lack of a desire to be criticized prevent us from criticizing him in a fair and fact-based manner. This may mean balancing the media sources that we expose ourselves to, so that we don’t obtain our news through a solely liberal or solely conservative lens. It may mean fact-checking the news that we do read, and questioning statistics or stories that seem a little off. However, it certainly does not mean dismissing all news as fake news simply because our president is uncomfortable with being wrong. 

Cassie Kuhn is a freshman majoring in math and political science.  Her column runs biweekly. 

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