“Are you sure you want to be a journalist right now? With how volatile it is out there, are you sure that this is a good profession for you?”
In one way or another I’ve been asked that question by almost everyone who cares for me. It’s not a matter of them thinking that I’m weak or that I can’t handle it.
They fear for me.
I’ve been working as a journalist for over a year as I write this. One of the first assignments I was given was to go downtown and interview people during the 2016 election. I couldn’t find a better trial-by-fire scenario if I tried.
The months leading up to last year’s presidential election were divisive.
I’ve see people dance like Fred Astaire. avoiding topics as to whether they were going to vote for Trump or Hillary. The conversation would almost always wind up with one or multiple saying, “Look, I don’t like either one but I might as well vote for the one who will do the least damage.”
I’m not going to go into the merits of President Donald Trump — that’s another blog post for another time.
Throughout the campaign and into Trump’s presidency, there’s been a phrase that’s been thrown around more than a sitcom catchphrase.
As the months have gone by, the claim of news outlets reporting fake news coverage have become more rampant. Media outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, BBC and NPR have been lumped together as the President’s public enemy.
“The fake news media is the enemies of the American people,” Trump said.
It would be easy to lash out at the President and call him a liar. It’s easy to claim that he’s scared of the power of the media and, therefore, he challenges us. It would be easy to do this and more.
But I’m a journalist. We do the hard work.
With any report that comes out of the media that questions the motives of the President, he immediately turns it around and calls it fake news.
And why wouldn’t he?
If every time you turned on the television you saw a group of people you didn’t know telling you that you weren’t doing your job correctly, wouldn’t you want to lash out?
It’s a natural, knee-jerking instinct. This would be natural for people to react this way but not for the President of the United States.
In defense of Trump, I can understand calling out fake news organizations for reporting lies and presenting them as factual.
For example, during the 2016 elections, a small pizza parlor in Salisbury, North Carolina called Comet Ping Pong was under fire. Reported by fake news sources such as Infowars, Planet Free Will and Vigilant Citizen, the story said that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats were running a sex trafficking operation in the basement of the pizzeria.
On December 4, 2016, a 28-year-old man named Edgar Maddison Welch fired three shots from an AR-15 style rifle into the restaurant.
When police arrested him, he said he was, “self-investigating the story.”
It’s fake news like this which misinforms people or gets them hurt. Go to your computer at any given point and you can find websites condoning Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s rhetoric as hate speech. You can find proof of Elvis, Tupac and Biggie Smalls being alive yet hidden from the public. Hell, you can just about find anything you want if you look hard enough.
We live in an age of information. But this does not mean that every piece of information given is the fact.
In fact, we live in a time in which facts can be debated; a time where the very basis of our understanding can and will be questioned. We have news saying Republicans are Fascists and Democrats are snowflakes wanting attention. We have news claiming that the Holocaust never happened, the Earth is flat and Lizard People control Hollywood.
Don’t believe me? Look it up.
Before you click on the Google tab, be careful.
There is not a day that has gone by without hearing something along the lines of, “I can’t trust any media source. They all have their biases.”
It’s inherent that each person has their bias over literally everything. To have no opinion over something is to have no truth over it. What the challenge for the media is to decipher what is factual and present it to the consumer as unbiased as possible.
This is where the media on either side has failed in recent years.
Though the news of Donald Trump becoming the next president confused me, it was the reactions of majority of the news organizations which made me question their validity. One after the other, I watched as seasoned news representatives either openly cheered or became depressed on national television.
Allow me to express my motif as a new journalist: I am not here to tell you my opinion. I am not here to provide a platform for either political party. I provide a platform for honesty and real stories.
This being said, just because a reporter might report on something you disagree with does not make it fake or illegitimate. As a society, our skin has grown thinner this way.
We have drawn a line in the sand. You’re either immersed in one side of the media spectrum or the other without stopping to consider the other side of the line. Then there are those that throw their hands up in defiance of the childish games and just plead for the truth.
This is where real journalism must reign.
People claim to hate fake news and the liberal media, yet how can one separate these stories from actual news?
Think about a news source you trust and then think of one you can’t.
If I flipped the two news sources without your knowledge, would you still be able to discern from the fact and the fiction?
We must hold journalism to a light and ask that it be fair and balanced, yet this is only half the equation. The other half lies with you, the consumer. Yes, I am going to give you work to do.
Ask yourself this: where do you get your news from?
A Pew research showed that over 65 percent of people in the United States gets their news from online and social media. The idea of vetting information is an art form that is decaying by the day.
One of the things I love and hate about human nature is based on a merit system. We all want to believe someone is honest and correct until proven otherwise. News flash, sometimes people are wrong.
So how do we disconnect facts from the lies?
As thinking citizens, we must teach ourselves how to read and think critically again. Before the age of information, society used to do this.
Books were read in order to expand your mind, not to belittle others.
We valued intelligence instead of mocking it as a fault.
American society pushed the boundaries of innovation for the sake of those yet to come. Since then, we stopped.
Read and listen to the news from various sources. If you are a Democrat, I challenge you to listen to Fox News and Breitbart. If you are a Republican, I challenge you to listen to CNN and MSNBC.
As my debate teacher once told me, “In order to be heard, you must first learn to listen.”
It’s a shame that in the modern age, people distrust the thing that wants to give them information. In the same token, it’s disgraceful that some organizations work only to sway the masses to one side or the other.
Fake news is nothing new yet it is forever relevant. It will take all who wish to listen and learn to create a world we can trust.