Freedom of the press, a directive protected by the First Amendment of our constitution. It allows for independent news agencies to seek truth, form opinions and present to the public view. This view, then, is up to the people for interpretation.
Make no mistake the press is important, an integral part in providing information to the public, but interpretation is vital to how news is perceived.
On Feb. 24 the Trump administration barred several media outlets from attending a non-televised briefing with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. These agencies included the New York Times, CNN, Politico, Los Angeles Times, Buzz Feed, BBC and The Guardian. This move stunned some other news organizations that decided to boycott this egregious yet predictable move by the White House.
The Associated Press, Time Magazine and USA Today were the news organizations involved in the boycott. They understood the poorly constructed way the White House handled the affair, deciding not to attend the briefing moments before it started.
This was the same day Trump made comments about reporters being “dishonest” at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
President Trump is no stranger to barring media or removing press credentials from respected news agencies. In a CNN report on June 14, 2016, some news outlets lost their press credentials when reporting on Trump during his campaign. This list included Univision, The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast, among others. All had been on what some journalists called a blacklist.
Trump even took to Twitter to express his distrust in the media a day before the New York Times ran an ad during the Oscars.
“For first time the failing @nytimes will take an ad (a bad one) to help save its failing reputation. Try reporting accurately and fairly,” he tweeted.
While Trump continuously paints the picture of news outlets being the enemy of the American public, The New York Times subscriptions increased by 132,000 paid subscribers after election day, according to CNBC.
“It’s a dangerous moment,” Chris Bury, former reporter for ABC News and DePaul’s senior journalist said. “He’s attacking vital American institutions.”
Being governed under a Trump presidency has led to a war on media. It is noticeable by the rhetoric he has spearheaded, primarily through his Twitter feed.
As Bury said, these times are unprecedented. Perspective is what multiple news agencies provide, but when some single out these organizations as “fake news,” as Spicer did Feb. 24, we fall into a trap, one in which only the voices that make us feel comfortable are heard.
“The truth is we’ve always had biased news,” Ben Epstein, political science professor said. “I think that suggesting all of the media is anything is wrong. There’s a lot of different types of media. Consumers need to be able to navigate a more complicated media environment than they ever have before.”
Epstein went on to say that being able to watch and read information that one may not agree with is important. It’s important because value can be found anywhere.
“I might watch Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and I might watch Sean Hannity on Fox News,” Epstein said. “And I can actually get some value in both of those sources but they’re both definitely biased. That doesn’t mean they should be thrown out. It also does not mean that I should get the entirety of my information from either of those sources.”
It is important to understand no matter what one chooses to believe as fact or fiction, there exists a possibility to be wrong. The significant point to take away is opportunity in choices, and the dangers that one person or administration may have on limiting perspectives. To uncover the truth for oneself is the right of any American living in a democratic republic.
“We serve as an independent check on the power of the powerful, not only the president, but other political leaders, other government leaders, community leaders, business leaders,” Bury said. “We as an institution provide the only accountability for the people at the top of our government.”
It is vital for citizens of a democracy to make informed choices. This ability only exists however, with independent press reporting.
Yes, the news may be biased and may at times provide information that a viewer disagrees with, but that doesn’t mean it’s fake news or that the people do not have the right to form their own opinions on what is fiction and what is truth.
“It’s the right for the American people to know what’s going on,” Emmanuel Hernandez, DePaul senior, said. “You can’t pick favorites. Especially as a president, you have to be able to accept criticism.”
The truth hurts, but it holds no bias. In 1998, President Clinton attempted to hide the truth about his affair with then White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Bury maintains this example is why an independent and robust press corps is vital.
“The president and every politician has always had an adversarial relationship with the press,” said Epstein.
Although they don’t carry the same goals, they work together and need each other. They respect the role each plays in our democratic process.
This is the role of the press: to hold those in power accountable, and to provide the public with information from multiple perspectives. The truth, then, is in the eye of the beholder.