Training in the Era of Trump
The motivations and fears of studying journalism in an era of “fake news”
By Abbi Kiesau
What constitutes fake news? If you ask our president, the answer is probably nearly all media sources (except the ones that lean in his favor, of course). The Trump administration blatantly expresses criticism and mockery of mainstream media, fostering distrust from the public towards the press, even more so than in the past. Being a journalist in this era, particularly if you’re a journalist that is blatantly left leaning or even nonpartisan, is having a target on your back for Trump and his supporters. One of the biggest fears at this time is the label of “fake news,” the dismissal of facts, and the potential backlash for your work. It’s easy to discredit ideas and facts that don’t support your own, and in this era, we are seeing the public become vocal about this. As much as Trump may attack the press citing it as a failing institution, a source of fake news, and an enemy of the American people, journalism students continue to march forward in their studies, undeterred by the threat of the Presidents disapproval.
So why do we continue to study journalism? Said best by James Nachtwey, an American photojournalist, society’s problems can’t be solved until they’re identified. The first step in making a change is creating awareness of the problem itself. Good journalism gives us the opportunity to expand our knowledge, encourage conversation about topics the public can now be aware of, and, in an ideal world, holds the powerful accountable for their actions. In the era that we are in, the truth of the latter has been extremely questionable. We have seen numerous issues come to light, only to let those in power maintain that power, despite the seemingly overwhelming voice of the public. Issues like the Kavanaugh hearing and the acts our own president have committed without facing impeachment feel like seemingly obvious abuses of power, yet change has not happened. To be honest, sometimes this feels like a failure. But it’s not, and here’s why. To the people who have been so brave to come forward with their stories or continue to voice their opinions when it goes against the powers of government, we hear you. Hearing these experiences and knowledge absolutely makes a difference. We have a lot of steps to go if we truly do want to hold the powerful accountable and take back our institutions, but telling your truth is just the start.
There are things in the world, true experience, true suffering, that need to be heard. Sometimes this is not on American soil, but it requires action and recognition for the sake of humanity. Free press was established with the very purpose of keeping the public informed and monitoring governmental and worldwide issues that would go otherwise ignored. Contrary to what the president and his supporters may voice over platforms like Twitter, the press exists to provide unbiased, fact checked, multisource stories. Part of our democratic society is the right to free press, allowing us to be informed and gather information not through the government, but through nonpartisan sources. The press is a service industry, and the service it provides is awareness. It is a responsibility and a privilege for citizens to be able to engage in this way which eventually can lead to all the difference. So, why do I study journalism? In the words of The New York Times, “the truth demands our attention.”