Is journalism dead? : Pinnings from an old man stuck in a new world

CNN’s Jim Acosta was stripped of his White House Press Credentials this week after he refused to yield his microphone during a particularly heated exchange with Donald Trump. From his dais, Trump evaded, dissembled, and generally refused to answer Costa’s questions about the president’s deliberate mischaracterization of Central American migrants as “an invasion” descending upon the United States. Things got really ugly when Costa asked about Trump’s “concern” about the current state of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Russian government and Trump’s election campaign, with Trump repeating “That’s enough!” and demanding Costa sit down. Predictably, we saw Trump hurl accusations of “Fake News” at Costa and CNN. Less so, POTUS once more denounced the cable news giant as “an enemy of the people.”

The first reality-TV President of the United States has declared open season on the mainstream American press that seems increasingly impotent to resist. As a fledgling journalism student, I’m really, really pissed off. I find myself seething at imagined deplorables who don’t read except to swallow the soup de jour of conspiracy theories doled out by the trolls at Breitbart and 4Chan, at distant racists who don’t write except to crank out signage reminding each other “IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE,” and at the public figures cynically riding this wave of stupidity into the halls of power.

If I consume enough espresso, I can work myself into a pompous stir in no time at all. Of course the monarchs of the ancient regime feared and loathed the printing press! Allow the plebs the written word and, bam! Look at what an awful mess these mortals have made with their “social media”—obsessively tweeting every moronic impulse to spout their opinions, stroking each other’s egos on Instagram while the world sinks into moral and intellectual decay! Ha-rumpf!

Then there are moments when I doubt myself. I’m on Twitter as much as everybody else, if not more so. I’m a bombastic twit and I’m not as smart as I think I am. Meanwhile, taking exception to every slightest hint of populist sentiment can’t point the way forward. What is all this self-righteous indignation gonna bring me except alienation?

I try to imagine what it would feel like to believe, as a white man, that my right to free speech (whatever that means) was somehow threatened by the #MeToo movement, or that my ‘race’ (however one defines that) was facing “genocide” by immigration; in other words, to drum up empathy for people who are scared, but who are either too dumb or too insincere to reckon with their own fear. Even then, I have to ask myself if it’s my responsibility to try to understand them, or if it’s really my privilege to suffer them.

If there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that hard news is a lot less likely to resonate with the public when anyone can publish anything. It’s harder to know what sources to trust and which to ignore. Meanwhile, there are fewer of the former and much, much more of the latter. I hope I get to the point in my career where, like Jim Acosta, I can ask questions that matter — even if no one answers them and I’m left out on my ass.