Photo by Lili Kibel

Dear President Trump

I remember walking into school on November 9th, the day after you became the President-Elect of the United States. I could try to embellish my story and make it more dramatic than it really was, but the truth was bad enough. What I can verify about that day is that it was easily the most depressing day on my school’s campus. People cried and hugged in the halls out of sympathy and fear, and even our teachers canceled classes to discuss what happened to our country the night before. I know how it sounds: almost as if a beloved member of our community had passed away. But for a community as liberal as my own in Santa Monica, California, this was no surprise. Even a quick scroll through my Facebook feed leading up to the election would feature numerous articles and posts in opposition to you and your campaign.

I am sure that it does not come as a shock when I tell you that a large population of people in the United States, specifically where I live, are not your biggest fans. You call us names, say we live in our “liberal bubble.” But that is not what worries me. What I want to address in this letter are your open attacks on the media, mostly via Twitter but also when speaking at events. As someone considering a career in journalism, I can truly say it disheartens me that you view the media in this light. Therefore, I would like to address this belief of yours and try to figure out a solution for the both of us to create a better future for journalism.

As a 17-year-old who has observed the world of journalism from up close and afar, I have seen that there are certain responsibilities that a journalist must recognize. To me, there is an unspoken moral contract with the public that journalists agree to when they decide to contribute to the world of journalism, and that contract is straightforward: to report the news truthfully and accurately.

With that in mind, I want to address your claim that the media is out to get you. On June 13th, You tweeted the following:

“The Fake News Media has never been so wrong or so dirty. Purposely incorrect stories and phony sources to meet their agenda of hate. Sad!”

Yes Mr. Trump, it is sad. And surprisingly, I agree with you. The outbreak of fake news that arose as you emerged in politics and became President is unfortunate, and has had a very corrosive and corrupting effect. But I want to make it clear that fake news does not represent journalism as a whole. I know you will disagree with me here, especially after what happened at CNN in late June when three journalists were forced to resign due to a “retracted story on Trump ally,” as the New York Times headlined. After this unfortunate controversy occurred, you took to Twitter:

“So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS & ABC? What about the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost? They are all Fake News!”

No Mr. Trump , they are not all fake news. CNN made a mistake; I agree that it was sloppy journalism, and CNN should have relied on more than one source. Unfortunately, this does happen every now and then with the sheer volume of newsworthy events that happen on a daily basis, but it does not mean that the media is targeting you.

I can also understand that when you see critical opinion pieces about you in the media, you might feel targeted and dismiss them as fake news. But what I want to make clear to you is the distinction between fake news and opinionated journalism.

Here is the question: are journalists allowed to input their own opinions when covering news events? To a “man on the street” such as Orlando Roberts, a production assistant and plumber in downtown Los Angeles, there is a place for opinion in journalism, but reporting the news is not one of them.

Politico Magazine came out with an evolved approach to journalism, entitled “Goodbye Nonpartisan Journalism. And Good Riddance.” In simple words, the article claims that your presidency has provoked journalists to create pieces that include opinion, whereas in the 20th Century, journalism had a more “down the middle” approach. The article references major news corporations such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the network and cable evening newscasts (i.e., CNN) as evidence of editorializing, and even calling you out on your potential “falsehoods.”

So yes, Mr. Trump, you could interpret this departure from nonpartisan journalism as an excuse to say that the entire world of journalism is out to get you, but perhaps you should look at this as a good thing. For everything else that you are doing (or not doing) in office, it can definitely be said that you are revolutionizing journalism and the way that the media reports. The question is, is that revolution for better or for worse? I would posit it is for the better: Maybe opinionated pieces that incorporate hard facts are exactly what we need for a better future in journalism.

I believe that what we now need to do, Mr. Trump, is figure out a way where you and I can both coexist in this digital age; I being an aspiring journalist, and you being the 45th President of the United States. Here are some of my personal goals and promises as a future journalist:

  1. Report the story, report it correctly, and tell the truth: I promise to make sure that the pieces I put out are well sourced, accurate, and not sloppy.
  2. Falsify the “Fake News:” I believe that fake news has become a phenomenon that can be stopped if news sites would stop relying on the amount of clicks a story gets to make money. My goal is to create a future where money is an afterthought, and the main concern as a journalist is covering the story in the most compelling and accurate way possible.
  3. Find a place for my opinion, but only where I feel it necessary to communicate the story.

And now, I have brainstormed a list of things that you, as president, need to understand for the future.

  1. You do not need to make sweeping generalizations or play the victim: when you do this, it makes you look ill-informed and weak.
  2. Social media is an important tool in this age, so use it smartly: You use Twitter to reach your “base,”but when you use it not to provide thoughtful commentary to advance your agenda but instead to bash others and/or make unsupported allegations and accusations, you seem petty, childish and small. The bullying is really beneath the office you were sworn to uphold. I suggest that you perhaps branch out of the 140-character maximum and use social media to your advantage instead of always seeming defensive and “misunderstood” after using cryptic tweets.
  3. Not everyone is going to be on your side, and that is OK. Many people did not like President Obama and criticized him constantly — yourself included. But President Obama had a thick skin, and you need to toughen up too, plus exercise some serious impulse control. As I approach my eighteenth year, having lived through the brutal years of middle and high school, I have come to realize that life is not always fair, and not everyone is going to like you. My mom always used to tell me whenever I had to deal with a mean girl that I cannot control what other people say or do, but what I can control is my reaction. Maybe you could remember that next time somebody speaks negatively about you.

But I know what you are thinking, why listen to a 17-year-old, and a girl at that? Well, Mr. Trump, I think that in these past few months in office you have seen first-hand the persistence and determination that young women can have in this country. After all, the future is female.

Cheers to three and a half more years (or possibly less).


Maddie Libby