With the president’s daily mentions of “fake news,” it is important to take a moment and examine the very amendment that gave journalists the right to publish. The First Amendment grants all citizens a right to free speech, but journalists also vow to objectively portray the truth — currently the latter is being disregarded by some.
In the past 15 years, journalism has seen a sudden shift, thanks to social media and the overwhelming urge to promote one ideology over another. Even though journalism has largely moved from print to digital, two things should remain steadfast: ethical decision-making and journalistic integrity.
According to a recent Gallup poll, 62 percent of Americans say the mainstream media favors a political party, which is up about 50 percent in past years. Further, 64 percent say the media favors the Democratic Party.
Trust in the media has steadily fallen below majority levels largely due to the lack of nonpartisan, neutral reporting that is presented by many news organizations. This was especially prevalent during the 2016 presidential election and has continued during the first nine months of the Trump administration; so much so that Republicans who trust the media have fallen to 14 percent from 32 percent in just one year.
Furthermore, as pointed out by Trump himself, a study done by Morning Consult found 46 percent of registered voters believe major news organizations fabricate stories about him. That means just 37 percent of Americans think the mainstream media does not invent stories — the rest are undecided.
As a field that serves to inform the public, it is astonishing to see how little faith the majority of the country has in the media.
The public’s standards for journalism seem to have decreased as the media continues to grow with blogs, YouTubers, and social media. While one should expect an opinion on commentary pages, opinion-driven news stories should not be the norm for mainstream media organizations.
The burden on mainstream media organizations is twofold: abiding by their commitment to journalistic integrity and serving as a model for student journalism. As some of the most prominent news outlets in the country, supposedly held to the highest of journalistic standards, publish “news” articles dripping with the author’s opinion or biased perspective, they open the doors for many more news organizations to do the same.
We continue to see mainstream media and, likewise, see student newspapers spin narratives to serve their own interest by using cherry-picked photos, taking content out of context, or posting misleading headlines.
Shockingly, the Morning Consult poll also showed that 28 percent of Americans think the federal government should have the power to revoke the broadcast licenses of major news networks if it says they are fabricating news stories about the president, and only 51 percent think the government should not be able to do so.
Giving the government this sort of power and jurisdiction over the freedom of the press would be detrimental to the people’s right to know. There are already a number of restrictions on the First Amendment, such as copyright and libel laws.
We are facing a precipice in media and we need to decide if we in this profession will continue down this road of biased reporting or return to the core of journalism.
Kelsey Carroll is a student at Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne, studying communications and political science. She is a media ambassador and chapter president for Young Americans for Liberty.
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