The Society of Professional Journalists defines its first rule of ethics as “Seek Truth and Report It”. By observing the behavior of our incoming President, I believe it is now more important than ever to not only seek and report, but also to reinforce the truth.
Donald Trump’s first press conference as President-Elect likely foreshadowed much of what is to come in his presidency. It is clear that the media, particularly CNN, and the President-Elect will not be friends any time in the near future.
Leading up to the press conference, Trump and his team were infuriated by a 35-page document published by Buzzfeed that was replete with misinformation and unverified claims suggesting that Trump had ties to the Russian government during the campaign. Trump stated at his press conference that he was also furious at CNN for “going out of their way to build it up.” But CNN did not build anything up. Before Buzzfeed even published the document, CNN reported that intelligence officials presented a two-page summary of the allegations in the document to both Trump and Obama. That. Is. All. In fact, CNN declined to include specific details of the document because they could not be verified by journalists.
Despite the facts of the situation, Trump tied CNN to the dishonest Buzzfeed document and labeled CNN in his press conference as “fake news.” CNN’s Jim Acosta grew tired of Trump’s attacks on the network and pleaded repeatedly for a question about Trump’s accusations. Trump, however, refused to even give the CNN correspondent an opportunity to ask a question. Acosta later said that Sean Spicer threatened to throw him out if he continued to demand a question.
Trump recognizes that CNN is a network that intends to challenge him. He clearly took this opportunity to strengthen his depiction of CNN as a biased and dishonest network. As we saw throughout his campaign, Trump deflects the attention from his own imperfections to the “dishonest” media. And now when he is confronted by a member of one of the many apparent “dishonest” outlets, he refuses to grant him the opportunity to speak. From my perspective, this is cowardice in its purest form.
Trump has an incredible amount of nerve to call any network a promoter of “fake news”. This is the same man who gets his news from the National Enquirer. The man who called the reputation of Alex “We don’t know if the Sandy Hook shooting was real” Jones “amazing”. The man who appointed Steve Bannon, executive chair of Breitbart “We side with our favorite politicians over our assaulted employees” News, to be his Chief Strategist. The man who has frequently appeared on Sean “Obama went to Muslim school in Indonesia” Hannity’s show. Yes, that man. And what do all of these commentators/media outlets have in common? They all endorsed Donald Trump. So of course when they present even the most extreme examples of propaganda and fake news, Trump could not care less. They all view Trump favorably and constantly praise him, so Trump regards them all as examples of real news.
If Trump is really this concerned with dishonest and biased media, maybe he should focus some political attention on the fact that six corporations own 90% of the media in America. That tends to cause media outlets to keep the best interests of their parent companies in mind when they report. Maybe once he is officially President he will crack down on the corporate media monopoly. But the fact that he picked two people who are opponents of net neutrality and promoters of deregulation to lead the transition of the FCC makes me pretty skeptical.
Trump’s supporters are going to view him as a heroin for scolding CNN because it is a network that does not reinforce their own bias predispositions. Is CNN perfect? Absolutely not. There is certainly a level of bias that exists within the news organization and their leaking of debate questions to the Clinton campaign in the Democratic primary is disgraceful. But that does not give Trump the excuse of unfairly lumping CNN in with a fallacious Buzzfeed story and to have the audacity to call CNN a fake news organization.
This is a fight that will likely carry on throughout the duration of Trump’s presidency. I implore the media and journalism world to not be discouraged by Trump’s demonizing of the industry. Now more than ever, we need journalists to hold politicians accountable and to reinforce the truth regardless of how people, and our new President, want to spin it.