Trump’s fake news response is killing good journalism
A heated exchange between Donald Trump and CNN’s Jim Acosta at the president-elect’s press conference on Jan. 11 laid the groundwork for potentially rolling back press freedoms protected by the First Amendment.
“Your organization is terrible,” Trump thundered over Acosta as he attempted to do his job as a journalist and ask America’s next leader a question. “No, I’m not going to give you a question. I’m not going to give you a question,” Trump repeated.
But here’s one of the more troubling things Trump said to CNN’s Acosta during this exchange:
“You are fake news.”
Let’s back up a little bit. This is fake news:
Fake news is essentially used to provoke outrage, anger, fear and even violence with no real consequences its original creators. This is mainly because so many of these fake news producers don’t even live in the United States. What they write and share with the world are just blocks of false bullshit spun into shiny little turd gems that have the appearance of legitimacy.
And these little shit nuggets have changed countless minds in this country.
This shouldn’t need to be said, but here it is: CNN is not fake news. It’s an organization of educated and trained journalists following a code of ethics that compels them to verify sources and information, have their work by scrutinized by multiple levels of editor and ultimately have those stories distributed to the public after hours of labor have been dedicated to each story.
CNN released a statement reacting to Trump’s accusations of fake news, saying, “We are fully confident in our reporting … Given that members of the Trump transition team have so vocally criticized our reporting, we encourage them to identify, specifically, what they believe to be inaccurate.”
The report that CNN is referring to is a two-page synopsis presented by top-level intelligence chiefs to Trump, which found that Russian operatives claim to have “compromising personal and financial information” on the president elect.
It’s alarming enough that a foreign adversary may have the potential to blackmail the soon-to-be most powerful man on Earth. But to have that man deny that information and attack the source providing it to the public is perhaps the most unsettling part of all of this.
Now, the elephant in the room needs to be addressed. Buzzfeed fucked up big time and gave all journalists a black eye. On Jan. 10, Buzzfeed published an unverified story claiming Trump has deep ties to Russia, which includes the highly entertaining but also unverified, shall we say, different kind of leak.
But as entertaining as that story is — the internet certainly had its fun — it doesn’t change the fact that Buzzfeed broke one the most revered laws of journalism, which is to verify information from sources before going public. When an organization refuses to do journalism right, we all suffer for it.
WHY THIS MATTERS
The press is in the constitution for a reason, y’all. A leader who believes he doesn’t need to answer to anyone — who, historically, have been journalists — is no longer leading a democracy.
Let me repeat this for the people in the back: A country without an effective press stops being a democracy.
Trump isn’t even president yet and look at the precedent he’s setting. Whether you support Trump’s policies or not is irrelevant. America is the most powerful country on Earth and it’s likely to be led by a man who doesn’t believe he needs to answer to its people.
This shit is real. And it cannot become normalized.
It’s going to take more than getting upset on the internet until the next Trump controversy comes along and we all forget about this one. This is more than controversy, a political gaffe or Trump having some pissy fit.
He is fundamentally changing this country and it’s occurring in ways that have devastating consequences for the future of democracy in America, and frankly, in the rest of the world. If this nation strays from its founding democratic principles, the world will follow.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Donate to Reporters Committee, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting freedom of the press.
Find and support local nonprofit news outlets near you.
Catch up on free press-related news in the U.S.
See what strong investigative reporting looks like at orgs like Poynter.