I wrote this on my way to The Nation's Journalism Conference in NYC.
I was ruminating on the ethics, profitability, and future of the journalism industry underneath the Trump administration. Of course, taking into context that Trump called the media "the enemy of The People." Let us not forget that Trump also allowed only specific reporting stations to a conference with him. In addition, broadcast news has rather sensationalized every word of stupidity he says or hailed it as the holy grail of truth that nobody was willing to say. All in all, Trump floods our media when perhaps we could just not give him a platform at all when there's nothing but air. Decisions, changes, budgets, healthcare, sure, that deserves time. But unnotable press conferences of further stupidity? Let's skip the airtime and the expenses. There are far better and more important things to cover in the bureaucracy. Regardless, here's some thoughts on journalism's future:
There are ultimately two trails journalism can take that will begin presently — only begin — under the Trump era. One is that journalism will delve deeper into false equivalency and rely on constituents and access to officials to sustain itself. The other is that it will double-down, joining in solidarity across publications and become strict watch-dogging truth-tellers.
It won't be easy. Polls show the general public wants a more dogged media and is skeptical of the government. But the profession's definition of journalism needs to change, in fact already somewhat has, and become known.
The public needs to understand that journalists are overworked, underpaid, and traditionally blue-collar, unlike their governmental rich, golfing counterparts. Journalism isn't elitist — though it currently can act that way, undermining its own legitimacy, which needs to change.
Journalism is founded in the constitutional protections of The People. As such, journalism has copious case law behind it such that the dissemination of falsities, or "alternative facts," that cause reputation-based, occupational, educational harm to a person and/or their livelihood will result in a successful lawsuit. Real journalists and their organizations face direct risks, like their publication shutting down completely due to a lawsuit(___ Bollea v Gawker). A journalist, their boss, their coworkers, and their friends are all put at risk the moment a law is broken or a fact is wrong.
This, however, does bring into question how on earth outlets like Breitbart continue to exist. Because real news, facts (unlike Breitbart), have to be so accurate and undeniable that they must equate to literal court-issued evidence for publication.
But this Trump era now demands journalism to be what it should've been all along: un-bargainable, accurate watchogs without false equivalency and without concern about access to officials.
This, however, requires the public to step up and monetarily back the press such that it no longer has to be a part of the machine, satisfying political and elite (corporate) constituents. Again, it must also become clear for the public what a journalist is. Journalism is a professional thorough practice. Journalists know how to make public records requests (PDRs, PDAs, FOIAs) and how to comb through them once they're received. Journalists know how to data mine, compile, and use various platforms (twitter, video, audio, print, broadcast) effectively. Journalists hold to ethical guidelines, produced by the Society of Professional Journalists. Journalists know how to tell when information is missing from data, press releases, recounts, records, stories.
The public needs to know what a journalist's job entails, and be able to recognize if that's being done and remove support when it is not. In other words, journalism needs the public to be media literate. And, in turn, journalism needs to cut the crap and pull back the veil, create solidarity, and stop being a governmental, machine-centered mouth piece.