Staff Ed: Politics have disqualified news outlets

It’s undeniable the 2016 Presidential Election was one like no other. Some emails were discussed, taxes remained hidden, and one candidate finally discovered Aleppo. However, following the inauguration of President Donald Trump, one issue is quickly rising above the rest: the declining freedom of the press. We believe that the current administration’s recent restriction and negative perception of journalism are dangerous because free press facilitates American democracy.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states press organizations have the right to report and inform the American public without censorship of the government. Despite this, on February 24, the White House blocked several well-known news sites from an off-screen press briefing, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Politico, BuzzFeed News, BBC and The Guardian.

About a week prior on February 17, President Trump tweeted the following: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” According to a poll conducted by Gallup last September, approximately 14 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of Democrats trust the media, an all-time low for both parties. If the public doesn’t trust their press, they are essentially blind to issues that directly affect them and are even more vulnerable to false influence.

As a press organization, this lack of trust in the media is distressing. A primary reason for journalism’s existence is to keep the public informed. Despite this, tweets like Trump’s insinuate that the press is not to be trusted or relied upon. This school of thought is not only threatening to the integrity of one of America’s oldest institutions but has historically degraded the ability for people to trust their government. In his rise to power in Russia, Joseph Stalin controlled the media by buying out multiple newspaper and radio companies, having all history books rewritten with his ideas of Communism and spreading propaganda. In doing this, Stalin was able to control the information released to the Russian people and was able to restrain them from revolting.

More recently, President Bashar al-Assad’s rule in Syria has been able to control the media by censoring newspapers, talk shows, and magazines. Through this, Assad has taken attention away from the harrowing events occurring in Aleppo, current warfare, and the refugee crisis of the Syrian people. In our own country, many people raised concerns when former President Obama hired a personal photographer and often did not allow other photographers in the White House. Correspondingly, the current administration’s censorship of historically reliable journalism sources should, therefore, be a red flag to the American people.

The integrity of American free press is not a partisan issue, and the Knight Errant is not alone in speaking out against Trump’s current stance concerning journalism. Due to the administration’s outlash at various news sources, leaders across political parties are voicing their concern, including former President George Bush. In an interview with NBC, Bush said, “It’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.” The threat towards journalism spans across borders of political affiliation, further emphasizing that the press must be able to hold the President and others in positions of power culpable.

Factual journalism is essential to democracy because it holds our leaders accountable, and without it, our society suffers. With the absence of journalism, there would be nothing to connect everyday people to the events and concerns that exist in their country. Although not all of us actively participate in the journalistic process, we all rely on the freedom of the press to keep us educated, updated, and informed. The voice of the press is the voice of the people, and according to our Constitution’s First Amendment, every voice has the right to be heard.