Opinion: Trump misguided on his media attacks

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Journalism can play an important role in providing a check on the government according to staff reporter Lucas Barr. President Trump's attacks on the media is threatening this and needs to stop writes Barr.

Journalism can play an important role in providing a check on the government according to staff reporter Lucas Barr. President Trump's attacks on the media is threatening this and needs to stop writes Barr.

President Donald Trump has continued his attacks on media outlets such as the New York Times, CNN, ABC News, and more regarding so called “fake news” news stories that these outlets publish. However, Trump’s claim have no basis in reality. Dismissing journalism being reported by major news outlets, and criticising their journalism as not credible, is dangerous as it can feed false information to the population and stop the press from keeping checks on the president.

Trump’s accusations of fake news challenges an important part of democracy with news agencies being able to freely report the news. Preventing a media organization from reporting on developments in the government while allowing others to do so, involves the government from allowing free press to operate. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did this by barring various news organizations from a press briefing in February.

This undemocratic move was contradicted by a statement Sean Spicer made in December: “We have a respect for the press when it comes to the government. That is something you can’t ban an entity from – Conservative, Liberal or otherwise. I think that’s what makes a democracy, a democracy versus a dictatorship.”

The Trump administration’s change of tone on this hypocritical statement will have serious implications. On the topic of hypocritical statements, Trump himself is guilty of promoting fake news, retweeting Breitbart articles on many occasions and making the ex-CEO of Breitbart, Steve Bannon, his White House Chief Strategist. The far-right news website has a record of reporting false news and encouraging misogyny and racism on various occasions.

Credible journalism has a record of keeping politicians on their feet and exposing elected officials of crimes, all to ensure the United States in governed fairly. For instance, Richard Nixon would have continued as president had the press not reported his part in the Watergate scandal. By telling the public that credible news organizations are “fake”, it inhibits the ability of the press to assure the Trump administration is governing fairly and lawfully.

Dismissing many publications as fake news also distracts from news that is actually fake. This causes many people to believe fraudulent stories and allowing the American people to fall for lies. The Trump administration has been doing nothing to combat this and reports published by CNN show that only 39 percent of adults “felt ‘very confident’ that they can recognize news that is made up.” Another report in the article said 30 percent of tweens and teens “said they shared a news story online during the past six months admitted that they didn’t get it exactly right.”

Trump’s attacks on the media have correlated with the recent rise of actual fake news and his discrediting of authentic reporting can give fabricated, so-called alt-right news articles a voice. For example, just a few days ago a fake news site writing a false article on the school’s prayer room, called Muslims “privileged zealots” and alleged Principal Scott Warstler’s “lies are digging himself into a Muslim approved grave.” In addition to using pictures of students without permission, the article embodies how sites claiming to be journalistic or news based have been able to grow and gain attention while the President directs his energy to assaulting credible organizations such as CNN or ABC News.

Given the implications of Trump’s “fake news” allegations from not allowing journalists to keep checks on the president, to trying to get Americans to believe lies, Trump must stop his anti-journalism rhetoric once and for all and instead focus his energy on debunking actual fake news.