The President, the Press, & Protests

My first year at college I wanted to be a journalist. I was interested in covering the stories of my community, and shedding light on truth was important to me. Shortly after, however,  I took a Media & Communications class. I distinctly remember sitting in the lecture hall with a panel of journalists from various media that my professor arranged for us one class. The panelists spoke about how politicized the field of journalism had become. This class was where I learned that corporations controlled coverage, and depending on what heads of news agencies felt deemed newsworthy, that was what reporters were told to write about or talk about on the 6 o’clock news.

I also was studying journalism at a time when papers were folding due to Internet news sources gaining readership and the consolidation of news outlets led to great uncertainty in the field. It was not long before I realized the field of journalism was not for me– the journalist’s “obligation to the tell the truth” was much more clouded and complex than I anticipated, the field more competitive, the emphasis was all about the ratings and bottom line.

A decade or so later, here we are. Within 24 hours or so of Donald J. Trump taking office as the President of the United States, a press conference is held at the White House where Press Secretary Sean Spicer spoke for the first time since the inauguration to media representatives. His message was to call news outlets out for “attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration” by comparing crowd sizes from 2013 to 2017. Calling out journalists for false reporting is something other administrations have not done so blatantly before. For this blog post, I am not interested in exploring “alternative facts” or whether or not crowd experts agree on the estimates for attendance at the inauguration ceremonies. Though I do encourage you to explore from multiple sources what is being said:

https://www.axios.com/trumps-time-accusations-vs-how-it-actually-went-down-2205868540.html

http://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/video/conway-press-secretary-gave-alternative-facts-860142147643

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/22/trump-inauguration-crowd-sean-spicers-claims-versus-the-evidence

What I am interested in exploring, however, is taking a bird’s eye view about what’s going on. In my opinion, media attention on inauguration crowd sizes pulls attention away about other national news stories like the Women’s March  or executive orders that affect many Americans.

Time is money, and air time is a lot of money. When the media moves attention towards something, it means they are pulling the attention from somewhere, someone, or something else. And in a world where information is everywhere, there is so much chaos and noise– we need a reliable and respectable media to report on facts and pursue truth.

Trump has made it clear that the use of technology is important for him to bring a message directly to the people via Tweets (@realdonaldtrump), YouTube statements, and other forms of direct communication. We can likely expect in the months and years ahead that the Trump Administration will surely seek to pull the media’s attention and also work to bypass traditional sources of White House communication by relying on the use of technology.

That very same technology is what we, as citizens, can use to ensure we are educated and informed, and be our own truth tellers. For those of us who attended Student Affairs graduate programs, we may recall being often asked to cite sources (in APA style!). I remember a faculty member at my program, Loyola University Chicago, who said something like, “cite once and it’s an anomaly. Find evidence of a claim twice, it may just be coincidence. But if you back up your claim with at least three sources– now you’ve got my attention and a case for your argument.” So, in the spirit of being scholarly, I encourage all those reading/listening to stories to invoke some of these same sentiments. Indeed, this concept is something all of us– leaders of nations, politicians, journalists, and Facebook friends would benefit from keeping in mind. In sum, here are a few points I’d like to remind you:

  1. Cite sources: If you’re going to make a claim, you better be able to back it up! We are in a world where anything can be Googled. Don’t just speak on emotions or feelings, get the data…especially when what you’re saying may be about or impact large groups of people.
  2. (Almost) every story has an angle: Wouldn’t it be great if we could just get the unadulterated facts? Well, it’s not that easy. Remember what I said before about journalism and ratings? Corporations controlling the media? Well, every news source has an underlying agenda. Some may be more obvious than others. Look for middle of the road news outlets for information and don’t just go off of Facebook click-bait. Yes, it may be easy to do, but we know Facebook uses algorithms to tell you what you want to hear. It is tough and it may not always be perfect, but find the unbiased media like these to get your information and form your own educated understanding of the world.
  3. Tell your own story: Remember that lesson on primary sources versus secondary sources from grade school? Primary ones are the eye-witness accounts, and secondary sources are those who heard from the eye-witnesses, or maybe a letter or article about an event but not a first-hand account. The farther removed you are from the primary source the more room exists for interpretations, opinions, and things getting lost in translation. So why not set the record straight from your own point of view. Personal lived experiences are valuable real-life accounts. Sure, our perceptions are influenced by a thousand factors. But no one can deny that your understanding of your own story is true for you.

Perfect example of Number 3– I’ll share some of my own truth. I am a moderate, and have voted both Democrat and Republican in various elections at the local, state, and national levels. On Saturday, January 21st 2017 I marched in New York City for the Women’s March because, among other reasons, I want the President and his administration to understand that he works for ALL of us. His inauguration speech stated we are united in this country by being American. However, some of his campaign promises would remove rights that exist for various populations of Americans. We need each other. We need to shine the light on one another, especially those who have not had the privilege to live in the spotlight. This internal unity and commitment to one another resonated in my heart that afternoon. I was standing on 47th Street among the crowd and a woman behind me started singing, “Oh-oh say can you see…” I joined her. And by the time the song ended, voices in every direction were singing,”O’re the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” That moment, the unity Trump spoke about was electric. These were people who maybe did not agree with his promises or proposed policies, but indeed they were a crowd of patriotic Americans wanting what we all want for our country– peace, unity, and freedom.

This is my personal truth. My lived experience. I use my truth to guide my life, while recognizing my influence ends at the tip of my nose. Outside of that, we need dialogue. Compromise. Shared commitments. Collaboration. These are the things that must be present when it comes to impacting the lives of others. These are the necessary ingredients that can only be made when we consider multiple perspectives and go beyond ourselves to consider how another person experiences with world. Only after we consider multiple sources, opinions, viewpoints and lived experiences can we make decisions for one another, and with one another. We  do this because we are all a part of this incredible nation. And this incredible nation needs one another to be informed, engaged, and empowered. This country belongs to us, all of us. Let’s be aware of what impacts this beautiful country of ours, make our voices heard, and perhaps most importantly of all– let’s listen. Let’s really listen to each other, and seek to understand each others’ truth.

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One Comment on “The President, the Press, & Protests

  1. nicely worded and stated. the truth will set us free, not alternative facts.
    I loved what the Rabbi at the Inauguration said == “countries are judged by their VALUES not by what is in their VAULTS.” let’s remember that fact.

    Like

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