Politicians’ alienation of media unwarranted, unhealthy for democracy

Austin Banzon
From his intense campaign season to his first few week in office, President Donald Trump has waged a war on the mainstream “dishonest” media. Trump’s overtly hateful attitude toward the media reflects the actions of many politicians before who have tried to dismiss or silence whistleblowers.


To say President Donald Trump’s relationship with the mainstream media is rocky would be a understatement.


From his divisive and intense year of campaigning to his first few days in office, a cornerstone of the 45th president’s political career is the denouncing of the “biased, fake” news media.


While alienating the media would normally hurt a politician’s campaign, Trump’s approach served as a bolster on the road to being elected president. By characterizing the entire media as a liberal machine designed to hurt his campaign with lies, Trump was essentially encouraging his supporters to lay down their newspapers and turn to only to him for “facts”.




In fact, on his first full day in office, President Trump made it clear that his “war on media” is far from over when press secretary Sean Spicer angrily declared during a press conference that the media slanted views of inauguration crowds.


“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer said, contradicting data and photographs comparing Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 inauguration crowds to Trump’s 2017 crowd.


Instead of accepting the falsehoods in Spicer’s statements, President Trump’s special adviser Kellyanne Conway dismisses them as “alternative facts”.


For Orwell fans, this rings a terrifying bell.


The condemnation of journalism is far more dangerous than just a collection of tweets. It threatens the very fabric of this country’s democracy. And while Trump is extremely overt about it, it is not a new concept.


Although Barack Obama’s charisma and charm makes it easy for some to believe in his self-proclaimed “most transparent administration” ever, Obama’s team actually used the Espionage Act to prosecute leakers who gave information to journalists more than all previous administrations combined. Despite his last-minute commutation of whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence, the legacy of transparency from the Obama administration never quite cracked up to what he said it would be.


Painting the media as just another enemy in the fight to win an election or even keep a reputation chips away at the only barrier between the government/corporations and the people. Without good journalism to turn to for facts, supporters are stuck looking to political figures for answers, which are often saturated with bias.


In retrospect, it can be the perfect political play. Writing off all other sources of information as “fake” or “dishonest” ensures an ignorant base of supporters blindly following and agreeing with everything you say.


According to Citizens’ Advocate editor Shaun Jex, the need for good journalism to balance government can be seen on the local level, as well.


“When the paper started, it started as a watchdog for things that were going on in city government,” Jex said. “There were issues at the times with things like conflict of interest, open meeting violations, and the paper really got involved with making sure people were aware of that.”


In fact, that very concept is where the name of Coppell’s primary local newspaper arose: Citizens’ Advocate.


“Particularly news media, I like to adhere to the idea of the fourth estate, the idea that journalism, specifically is like a fourth estate that’s there to keep the government honest, keep the people informed,” Jex said. “The only way democracy works is if people are informed, they know what’s going on, they can make informed decisions, and that’s what the media does, or should do at it’s best.”


Granted, dishonesty and bias does present itself in media sometimes; there are websites that promote the “fake news” that Trump throws around so lightly. While it is important to be aware of this and differentiate fake from real news, dismissing the entire media is not the solution.


Journalists exist to keep politicians in check. Ignoring all media because of what those politicians say is pulling the wool over your own eyes.