Is Trump creating a dangerous world for journalists?

A free press is crucial for America

By Kacey Connolly, Collegian Contributor

On Feb. 11, President Trump held a rally in El Paso, Texas for his 2020 campaign. During this event, Trump addressed several concerns: trade deficits, building his wall, magic wands and, of course, his hatred for the media.

Trump made repeated claims about the news, claiming that “some of the most dishonest people in media are the so-called fact checkers.” Comments like these aren’t new from the president; since Trump began running for office, he has continuously slammed the media for “fake news,” shouting allegations against any person or organization that dares to write something unfavorable about him.

Although such remarks are expected from Trump, it’s still shocking that one of his supporters would physically attack a BBC reporter moments after Trump dragged on about how the news misrepresented him. After everyone made sure the reporter was safe, and after various reports on this event spread across newspapers, a lingering question seemed to swirl: Has Trump’s invention of “fake news” created an unsafe environment for today’s journalists?

Now, I’m not saying every single news outlet is trustworthy, and I’m not saying every single journalist is a good one. Some journalists lie, like when Tucker Carlson from Fox News said in 2014 that “Far more children died last year drowning in their bathtubs than were killed accidentally by guns.” The president himself has been known to lie, like when he said that 3,000 people “did not die” in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico and that the death toll was “done by the Democrats.

But is it true that false statements like these are enough to deem all media untrustworthy? The answer is no, but the fact that there is a question at all is quite dangerous for anyone in or pursuing the field of journalism.

BBC reporter Ron Skeans was doing his job as a journalist at the El Paso Trump rally when a Trump supporter shoved and swore at him and other journalists on the scene out of nowhere. I understand that people can become consumed with passion for who they support at political rallies, eventually lashing out at those who disagree with them. The only problem is that Skeans wasn’t disagreeing or arguing with anybody, but instead doing his job as a cameraman, not to mention the fact that BBC is commonly known as a bipartisan news organization, making the attack even more unprovoked. The sole reason for the attack was Skeans’ profession and because Trump injects the idea that anyone affiliated with news media (except those who report in his favor, of course) is the enemy.

It makes sense for presidents to resent the media to some degree. It isn’t abnormal for a person to dislike those who question their motives and expose their secrets. However, none have disrupted the field of journalism as aggressively as Trump. It has now become not merely a resentment, but a threatening world for those in the career.

As a journalism student in college, I have been told in almost every class to always be aware of the threats that will be thrown at me because of my involvement in the industry. But this seems pretty ironic because of the freedom of speech and of the press that we have in America. Back in 1787 when the founding fathers were constructing our Constitution, they made the first amendment for a reason. Newspapers and journalists were there to protect citizens from their government, allowing every individual a chance to be well-informed on who they were electing and what the elected were doing. This is what made the United States of America the land of the free.

If we’re allowing our president to alter society’s view on journalism – to create a severe distrust for those who are there to protect us – how are we supposed to be the land of the free?

As a country, we need to combat the newly created stigma against media outlets. Our president may have convinced many that journalists live to lie about everyone and everything, but our president also averages 15 false claims a day. If the pot were ever calling the kettle black, it certainly is right now.

At the end of the day, journalism will always be a staple in America. From pre-revolutionary times to the 21st century, news has always been constant in this country and journalists will continue to perform watchdog duties upon the government, no matter how many Trump supporters shove us at rallies. James Franklin didn’t spend four weeks in jail in 1722 for printing satire about the government in “The New England Courant,” and the Washington Post’s Katharine Graham didn’t risk her family’s entire legacy by printing the Pentagon Papers just to see Donald Trump wreck American journalism. As Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black once said, “The free press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”

Kacey Connolly is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]