Americans place a high value on the United States Constitution and the promises it contains. In his inauguration, Donald J. Trump swore an oath to uphold this great document. On Feb. 24, 2017, Trump’s press secretary held a news gaggle and made the administration’s first move toward violating the First Amendment — Freedom of Speech.
CNN, Politico, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and BuzzFeed were among the news agencies refused entry into the briefing. Each of these holds the proper credentials from the White House and have several reporters present during daily briefings.
Donald Trump Increases Anti-Media Rhetoric
Both President Trump and his chief strategist repeatedly referred to the press as, “The opposition party,” according to CNN.
The banning of media outlets comes days after the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) where President Trump outright stated that the press is the enemy of the people. His rants continued his favorite theme, media is bad, the news is fake, etc.
At CPAC, Trump further complained about news agencies writing stories without credible sources, or not citing them. Apparently, if a person wishes to be kept anonymous to protect themselves against retaliation, then reporters should not use them.
News and media must have access to provide the American public with information needed to hold others accountable. In this case, disallowing the attendance of mainstream correspondents to the press conference suppresses their ability to report what they hear or see.
Trump vs. Media
Many of the arguments supporting the decision to reject journalists contend that Sean Spicer held the gaggle in office, which limited the number of people who could attend. Typically, this type of meeting takes place in a large area allowing the usual news outlets presence. A gaggle is a press conference that is less formal than the daily White House briefings.
The most interesting point of this situation is that the major news companies denied access are those Trump has publicly denounced. It seems his action creates fake news. If not allowed to participate, how is a newsperson able to have firsthand information, instead they must rely on others, to tell the truth.
Trump appears to be strategically moving toward removing press members from those who are entitled to benefit from the protections of the First Amendment. An editorial in the Detroit Free Press contends the move to suppress the media is tantamount to POTUS’s taking another step toward tyranny.
Sean Spicer’s Flip in Beliefs About Freedom of the Press
Spicer seems to agree with Trump’s attitude about the press, as his actions line up with the president’s rhetoric. In December 2016, shortly before given the position of press secretary, he told reporters:
I think we have a respect for the press when it comes to the government. That is something you can’t ban an entity from. Conservative, liberal or otherwise, that’s what make a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship.
It is distressing to see Spicer’s complete reverse of opinion regarding the treatment of the media. Does his statement mean America is teetering on a battle against a Trump dictatorship? Or, was the press secretary merely saying what Americans wanted to hear?
The Truth About Media
David Boardman, Steering Committee Chair for Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press released a statement about Trump’s first month in office and how the government is dealing with the press.
We’ve seen unrelenting verbal attacks on the media and journalists. Referring to members of the American press as ‘the enemy of the people’ is incendiary, and should not be taken lightly.
Our country was founded on the belief that a free press is essential to democracy, and the Reporters Committee is deeply committed to ensuring that journalists are able to do their jobs.
The New York Times posted an ad on YouTube Feb. 23 and aired it during the 85th Academy Awards. Viewers see words on the otherwise blank screen and hear sentences, which increase in speed until the words flash by fast and the voices overlap, demonstrating the overwhelming data stream in America.
Judging What Is Fair and Equitable Reporting
CNN tells readers the ad seeks the truth and succeeds. Whereas, Western Journalism wrote, “The New York Times sought to market itself as the truthful alternative to President Donald Trump Sunday night in an advertisement.” Then added tweets from Trump and his supporters.
The president’s tweet said the failing newspaper took out an ad to save their reputation. He also said the ad was “a bad one.” Finally, he suggested it would be best if the paper wrote stories that were accurate and fair.
Just because one might not agree with a reporter’s spin does not mean it is a lie; something a journalism instructor must remind themselves when grading articles. Take the example of adult children conversing about something that happened, each child saw and experienced the event differently. The human brain is wired that way. Another thing that attributes to one’s perceptions is where they live, who they associate with, their personal sense of morality and more, the term is called positionality.
What determines fairness in reporting? The answer might be more complicated than one would think. If a person is a private citizen, a journalist with integrity will do everything in their power to protect that person. If that same citizen committed a crime that places them in the spotlight, responsible reporting would include causing no harm to the accused’s family members and victims.
When a story happens with a person who is a public figure, the lines of decency and fairness become blurred. Some reporters choose to exploit the situation and cast a bright light on the person, his family, and victim. Fortunately, there are those who refuse to smear anyone.
The president and their administration; politicians at any level; and governmental agencies and their officials are in a different category. Whenever a person holds a position that can dictate the well-being of America and its citizens, they are not subject to the same fairness. Granted they do deserve to have a private life if they act in an upright manner.
Nonetheless, thorough investigation and reporting are not necessarily fair, just, or impartial. The Constitution guarantees its citizens the right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances without fear of retaliation.” Reporters have an ethical responsibility to ensure the people have access to all sides of the story.
President Trump Encourages Hate
Comments in the Western Journal, on Facebook and Twitter posts indicate people are buying into Trump’s claims that the press is the enemy.
One tweet written by Tyler addresses CNN and the New York Times. He wrote: “hahahahaha Trump is destroying you so badly that you have to buy ad space to defend you legitimacy. This is beautiful to watch.”
A comment on Western Journal by Monty:
The fact of the matter is this when you deliberately and selectively conceal information to bolster your agenda you have LIED. When you deliberately repeat something OUT of context for the purpose of getting people to misunderstand what was said, you LIED. When you deliberately do NOT report something simply because it doesn’t agree with your ideas, you LIED by omission. Your integrity is SHOT MSM.
On Facebook by Darla:
If they would tell the truth they wouldn’t be banned. I am sick to death of the news media telling a half story, purposely leaving things out so it can be all misconstrued!!!! I don’t even watch the news any more, it makes me sick!!! The media is causing most of the problems with people not accepting Trump as President.
What the First Amendment Says
When settlers joined forces against the crown during the Revolutionary War, ultimately securing victory, they fought to give all citizens iron-clad rights. The Constitution clearly outlines these. The first 10 of the 27 amendments included in the original document established the Bill of Rights.
The first, and most important, guarantees the government cannot pass a law to take away the following: respect the establishment of religion or prohibit people from practicing their faith; alter the right of free speech; curtail the press and deny people the peaceful assembly. Moreover, they may not take away the right to address the government, question its actions, and expect ratification of any misdeed.
Former Republican President Says Media Equals Sound Democracy
George W. Bush spoke candidly with Matt Lauer on NBC’s “Today” news program. He openly discussed President Trump and left that topic to a wait and see scenario. When confronted with a question about media, Bush said media is essential to a sound democracy. He further told Lauer that it is hard to unify the country with the press divided.
In the age of the internet, there are millions of news, web, and blog sites competing for the masses attention. The types of news available range from ultra-conservative to ultra-liberal and everything in between. Perhaps, the best way to disseminate the information is to read sources from at least three different types of reporting, then decide what the facts are.
By Cathy Milne
Detroit Free Press: Donald Trump’s latest step toward tyranny
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: Statement from Reporters Committee on press freedom in the first month of the new administration
Western Journal: New York Times Airs First Ad In 7 Years- Trump Fires Back
CNN: New York Times ad seeks the truth during the Oscars
NEWSMAX: George W. Bush: Press ‘Indispensable to Democracy’
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