May 23, 2017

Quality reporting suffers from Trump’s war on media

In the 1960s, television became a medium for the influence of public opinion. The rise of televised entertainment and news was in its beginning stages. When John F. Kennedy was shot in 1963, it became a turning point for broadcast television. His assassination was broadcasted to a horrified nation as they watched their president gunned down in front of their eyes. 

In that moment, the public was given something that print or radio couldn’t – moving images that impacted them as an audience, as it happened. The shooting of Kennedy’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was also televised to the nation. This time, it inflicted an entirely different emotion.

I believe that that was, and still is, the power of broadcast television.

In 2017, there has been an idea of “fake news” websites, said to have tampered with the 2016 election results.

Fake News Graphic grayscale

Illustration by: Sarah Blankenship

According to Pew Research, 64 percent of U.S. adults use Facebook. Thirty percent of them get their news from Facebook. When Donald Trump’s election into presidency shocked the nation, there became a question of how this could have possibly happened. One proposition was that perhaps Facebook had allowed  “fake news” sites to post false information that could influence an unjustified opinion. Then, of course, influencing an unjustified vote.

The argument stands that if 30 percent of all U.S. adults get their news from Facebook, and “fake news” is lingering on their timeline, then it’s likely the same 30 percent of U.S. adults could have voted in the election for “fake” reasons. Even local newspapers have to compete with “fake news” websites floating around Facebook.

Brittany Ruess, a reporter for the Columbia Tribune in Columbia, Missouri, said she feels these sites are a big problem for her as a reporter.

“Competition and accuracy have always existed, but today real reporters are competing against fake news sites,” Ruess said. “I hope that people are waking up to the reality of those fake news sites in the wake of Donald Trump’s election to president, but I still see friends on Facebook posting obviously ridiculous news articles.”

The nation has shifted from the impact of broadcast television to the impact of news that may or may not be legitimate on our computer or cell phone screens. It compromises the reputation of news stations. The trust of the audience has been tampered with. Even articles about the “fake news” problem could be considered fake news. So what is next for the future of journalism?

Regardless of how questionable the future of journalism may look, it won’t die out.

It is not widely believed that investigative journalism is dead. Of course, there are victory stories. The Oscar-winning film Spotlight, which plays out the story of the investigators at the Boston Globe outing sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. But, there is a time element to the existence and/or quality of investigative journalism in 2017.

If John F. Kennedy was shot last week, it would be trending on Twitter: #RIPPresidentKennedy. The nation would be horrified at a shopping mall, at their jobs or on a date. They would be receiving their news from their cell phone screens instead of their living room. There would be a Facebook group for a Vietnam War protest in the 1970s.

On the contrary, the rise of these issues have become a positive outlet for the opportunity for the future of journalism and future journalists. It creates a challenge to charge full frontal at difficult and impactful stories. Stories that could change the world, like the first time heavy news was broadcasted and shocked an entire country.

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