OPINION: Donald Trump Versus the Press

  |  Topic: Media Analysis, News, Opinion, Politics, VOX Media Cafe
By Lexi Rogers, VOX Media Cafe reporter

The relationship between President Donald Trump and the press is one of the most controversial relationships currently in the public eye. Although the attacks President Trump executes are sometimes so blunt the situation can sound funny, it’s no laughing matter.

The President of the United States is attempting to keep the media from doing its job. While Trump’s aggression has reached many different sources, CNN, in particular, has received the majority of his anger. For example, at a July 13 joint press conference with the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, Trump purposely avoided questions from CNN’s White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. When Acosta attempted to ask a question, the president tensely remarked, “CNN is fake news. I don’t take questions from CNN.”

After the rejection, Trump proceeded to take a question from Fox News’ Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts. Throughout his political career, Trump has favored Fox News. In comparison to CNN, Trump describes Fox as a “real network.”

After the ordeal in the U.K., Roberts expressed his opinion in a video posted on the Fox News website. He revealed, “I used to work at CNN. There are some fine journalists who work there and risk their lives to report on stories around the world. To issue a blanket condemnation of the network as ‘fake news’ is also unfair.”

There are multiple examples of Trump accusing the media of reporting fake news. However, he has also skewed the truth on a few different occasions. One of Donald Trump’s infamous tweets that sent America on a frenzy posted on March 4, 2017, was: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

President Obama had not, in fact, wiretapped Trump Tower, neither during the election nor at any other time. This was confirmed by James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, in an NBC interview. Yet again, President Trump had distributed, in his own words, “fake news.”

Fake news is a term used quite frequently and loosely. After being caught posting it, Trump accused the media itself of reporting fake news.

The term is being tossed around so carelessly one might wonder what is fake news?

Fake news is any information put into the public by any media outlet that is false. It can be distributed through print, broadcast news, and online via social media. There are many different websites that post bogus stories, so making sure a source is credible before sharing is critical.

Legitimate journalists work very hard to fact-check their sources in order to provide the most accurate information possible. The media’s job is to report the truth. It’s the definition of their occupation. In fact, the Society of Professional Journalist’s Code of Ethics states that reporters should, “Take responsibility for their work” and verify information before releasing it.”

Logically thinking, a reporter would not purposely write fake news — especially if they are held responsible for it. Sometimes journalists have to report a story that displays someone in a bad light. Although some stories can be controversial, journalists continue to execute their job description. The thoroughness and detail of a story done by a solid reporter has potential to cause unrest with the public, but that is simply a risk that is taken as journalist.

When a prominent figure makes an attempt to discredit a journalist’s hard work simply because of the way they are portrayed, the journalist’s reputation is put in danger. When in the public eye, a person’s opinion, like the president’s, can sway an entire audience. In recent events, journalism is being challenged.

Susan Percy* is the editor-at-large for Georgia Trend magazine. She has been working in the journalism field for more than 50 years. Even though her job is not as stressful now as an editor, she started her career as a reporter, writing as many accurate stories as possible.

Percy suggests that when Donald Trump calls a particular news source “fake news,” he is “really trying to undermine good journalists.” As a result of Trump’s criticisms, Percy said she has become even “more careful about checking facts.”

In light of the challenges reporters are facing, Atlanta freelance journalist Max Blau* told VOX he now tries to make his stories “more bulletproof than they were before.”

In addition to these challenges, reporters also face many industry changes as digital content continues to overtake older print media. Readers are expecting a quality story, frequently for free and in a short amount of time. Atlanta Journal-Constitution Deputy Editor Leroy Chapman brings up the important issue of “being able to provide in real time and quickly the kind of depth takes a lot of time and effort and care and expertise.” He sees readers in the future finding a small amount of “trusted brands” to get their information.

Fake news is not new, but it is a term that has been used often within the last few years. But keep in mind, major news outlets, including CNN, have ethical standards in place in order to report the truth.

There are ways to differentiate a credible source from an unreliable not credible source. With the digital age in full effect, there are tons of websites that use a popular name in the URL with a slight change at the end in order to attract a large audience. For example, cnn.co or abc.com.co. These websites are not the official trusted sources that are seen on television. Watch out for these very small but very important differences. They have the power to make or break a reputation.


Lexi, 15, attends Woodward Academy, and has a new found love of sushi!

Photo illustration by Jasmine Martin

Editor’s Note: The journalists quoted in this story also are connected to VOX personally, as Percy and Blau have served as volunteers and Chapman’s daughter attended this year’s VOX Media Cafe summer program. CNN is a supporter of VOX Teen Communications, the nonprofit that publishes VOX ATL. 

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