From Buzzfeed writers to news anchors, the role of a journalist is ever evolving to conform to changes in this digital landscape. We can date the profession of news gathering and spreading to be as ancient as time itself, for as long as there have been people, there have been those that took it upon themselves to inform the community of the happenings around them. The history of Journalism is long and rich, from Catholic churches informing and scribing notes to their followers and the general public of how to live life; to the town cryer declaring news from their palace. Journalists were entrusted with the job to truthfully inform and empower the general public with unbiased information about their lives, societies and their governments.
And for many years this responsibility held true. Upon the mainstream popularisation of the television in the 1950s news anchors became a trusted face in the family home. Every night, families would turn on the television to watch the likes of Walter Cronkite on CBS’s evening news broadcast. Cronkite is known as being one of, if not the most trusted people on earth when he was alive, being the face and voice that reported to millions around the world that then U.S president John F Kennedy had been assassinated, as well as reporting on the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. Walter Cronkite was trusted world wide to deliver important, accurate and unbiased information.
A survey conducted last year showed that less than half of all citizens of the US trusted the media, with only 42% of Americans responding in positive to the media’s trustworthiness. That is down from 47% in the previous year, 2016. This is the first year that massive falls in trust have not resulted from major global catastrophes, like the Global Financial Crisis or a devastating disaster like Japan’s Fukushima nuclear meltdown. Richard Edelman, the man behind the firm who conducted the survey noted the strange fact that the decline has in fact happened ‘at a time of prosperity, with a stock market and employment rates in the U.S. at record highs’. And instead of seeing a boom in the trust of the media and governments, the USA is seeing record breaking falls in trust. Edelman believes that this drop can be related to the rise of the ‘Fake news’ error in American media and politics. On both sides of the political fence, you have those who are more than willing to throw the media under the bus as being untrustworthy.
U.S. President Donald Trump has not been shy to this stigma, in fact his administration saw the rise of the #FakeNews epidemic sweeping journalism. Describing coverage and broadcasts about him as being false and unfair. He even went as far as to describe the media as the enemy of the American People early last year.
This tweet itself has found many news organisations accusing Trump of trying to turn the population against the media. Many speculate that Trump’s repeated use of this call to arms is responsible for the fall of trust that 2017 saw.
On the opposite side of the fence we have the left media happily reporting fake news at any given opportunity to tarnish the President’s reputation (even further than it currently is). Joy Behar of the day time talk show The View excitedly read out false news from Brian Ross about the president’s involvement with Russia. While at the time she believed it to be true, and it was given to her on air, the damage had already been done. While plenty of people took the news as gospel truth and believed it at face value, very few saw her embarrassing apology as she admitted her failure to fact check and her deliverance of shockingly misleading news.
Similarly, 10 days after Trump became the republican nominee in 2016, the New York Times published an article discussing Trump’s past romantic connections, using quotes from past girlfriend Rowanne Lane to make Trump sound like a predator, and his relationships, borderline abusive. But upon seeing the article, Lane accused New York Times of spinning her words and putting a negative connotation on a relationship that was, in fact, not negative. And yet The Times and their reporters never issued an apology for their purposeful error, nor did they print a correction. These mistakes that in the past would cause someone to lose their job and never work in the industry again, are overlooked for the sake of a sensationalised medium.
And while it may seem like many people are happy that ‘their side’ or ‘their guy’ is being represented at all by the media, the population prefers the idea of a fair fight, or at the very least a not manipulated story on the news. While on a mission to get the real opinion from everyday Americans, Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post came across a young man who said he was tired of it all and wanted less opinion interlaced with his facts; “It’s called the news – it’s not supposed to be about their agendas.” Going on to tell journalists they need to “grow up”. His opinion easily agreeable to both sides of the political spectrum. People want to be informed not purposefully mislead by the likes of CNN and Fox news, bring back the Walter Cronkite’s of the industry and bring back the trustworthy production of news. Make Journalism Great Again.