President Trump is not afraid to share his thoughts on the media and what he deems “fake news.” He has called the press “unhinged” and “crazy,” a cause of “division” and “distrust,” and the “enemy of the people.”
While attacks on the media in general are nothing new, this kind of rhetoric by a sitting president is unprecedented. In August, hundreds of newsrooms across the country fought back against Trump’s anti-media messaging by sharing editorials on why the media and journalists are not the “enemy of the people.”
The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do. The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2018
On Aug. 30, a California man was arrested after making violent threats against The Boston Globe in response to their editorial.
Despite the criticism and very real danger that members of the media now face, attendees of the 2018 National Convention of NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists found reasons to be hopeful – if not more careful.
The NLGJA conference brought almost 450 attendees to Palm Springs, Calif., for networking, awards and workshops. The organization of journalists and media professionals is dedicated to accurate coverage of the LGBTQ community.
Michelle Garcia is senior editor of race and identity at Vox and panelist for NLGJA panels “Middle Management Doesn’t Have to Suck” and “A View from the Top.” Garcia said that although her job has been “much more intense” since the election, this is a time to be recording history.
“We are in such a history-making time, especially when we are talking about marginalized people,” Garcia said. “We are at ground zero, and so I feel what I’m doing right now has that extra element of importance and weight.”
Cyd Zeigler, a co-founder of Outsports who writes about sexuality and sports, said that more LGBTQ people are coming out now and telling their stories through the media.
“We kept being told that if Trump was elected, then suddenly there was going to be this fear cast over the whole community and people would be afraid to come out. The complete opposite has happened,” Zeigler said. “Last year, we wrote about more out athletes than ever before, more than when Obama was president, so I think it’s had a unifying and empowering impact on this community.”
Not everyone has experienced a shift since Trump was elected. Jaweed Kaleem, a race and justice correspondent for The Los Angeles Times, said that his work got criticized and attacked even before Trump got into office.
“I frequently get criticism and strong disagreements about the topics I cover. I was accused of bias before Trump was president and while he is the president,” Kaleem said. “I clearly have a name that indicates that I’m not white and maybe some non-Christian religious background, so people often will criticize me or insult me for that reason, and that happened during Trump but it happened before Trump, too.”
As for Trump’s assertion that the media is spreading “fake news,” Dustin Gardiner, state politics reporter for The Arizona Republic, said media outlets are not to blame.
“What I would define as actual fake news isn’t coming from media outlets themselves. Gardiner said. “It’s political operatives, foreign governments and others that have used social media as a tool to manipulate information and make it appear as if their information is coming from a genuine news outlet.”
According to a Knight Foundation survey from January 2018, just 27 percent of Americans felt “very confident” in their ability to discern the difference between news and opinion. Garcia said Trump’s allies are taking advantage of that lack of knowledge.
“I do think that the right wing that been doing an excellent job for the last two generations of diminishing peoples’ view of what the news is and journalists,” she said. “The attacks on the news industry are not new. It has been just ratcheting up and we now have the perfect atmosphere for it to really peak.”
Even before Trump took the presidency, there was an overall negative view of the media by the public. A Gallup poll tracking trust in the media shows that even throughout Obama’s presidency, less than half of Americans have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of Trust in the media. In 2016, the amount of Americans who trust the media dwindled to just 32 percent.
The Knight Foundation survey shows more than eight out of 10 Americans say the news media are important to democracy. However, 43 percent have a negative view of the news media.
Several of the NLGJA participants agreed that accuracy and credibility are important ways to combat the anti-media rhetoric.
“If the media wants to be taken more seriously and be more trusted, they need to do more due diligence,” Zeigler said. “They need to stop being this rush to get things first and get them right.”
Kaleem said that he has taken to checking his work up to four times before publishing it.
“I’ve become even more stringent about trying to make sure every single thing I say and write is accurate and double- and triple- and quadruple-checked,” Kaleem said.
“The best thing you can do is just to do really good reporting and be accurate and prove your critics wrong if they criticize your accuracy and your message,” he said. “Your work is the best argument against criticism.”
About the Author
Brooklyn Riepma is a senior at Boise State University pursuing an undergraduate degree in media arts with an emphasis in journalism and media studies. Learn more about her here.