Brooks: The president’s comments on the media do affect the journalism department

The Whit needs the same support that all college publications need. -Staff photo/Ashleigh Albert

As Rowan’s journalism department is grooming the next generation of young journalists, President Trump’s ongoing negative comments about the media have caused various professors to become more aware of what they teach.

One of the most noteworthy things about the Trump presidency is the clear disdain for news outlets that don’t paint him in the best light. This disdain has been exercised on a variety of occasions. Examples include: publicly scolding reporters at news conferences like he did last month at Trump Tower regarding the events in Charlottesville, coining the term “fake news” and then using it to diminish a news organization’s credibility.

The professors of the department here have always taught their students important journalistic values such as ethics, accuracy and avoiding plagiarism. However, in the current state of journalism and how it’s being viewed, it has caused Professor Dianne Garyantes who teaches News Reporting I to become more aware of the sources she uses in her lectures. She said: “I now shy away from using any sources that have a clear bias as examples in class.”

For Professor Amy Quinn, the new semester brought an opportunity to set the record straight to her Online Journalism I class that, “Journalism is essential to democracy and that journalists are not enemies of the people.”

Chair of the department Professor Mark Berkey-Gerard, echoed the same sentiments but added, “I haven’t seen an official this high in office use the press as their enemy.” He also expressed concern for his young reporter students in this hostile environment, especially with social media bullying. This is such a valid concern because some journalists are being targeted and scrutinized for doing their job, which is to hold public officials accountable. MSNBC reporter Katy Tur was a prime target for Donald Trump’s insults during the last presidential campaign. She was singled out by him while reporting at one of his campaign rallies in Mount Pleasant, SC and ended up having to be escorted by the Secret Service because the crowd began to yell at her. Tur describes this experience in depth and more in her book Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History.

No leader should be so tenacious in trying to take down and discredit reporters when they did not write a story that show them in the best light. It sets a bad example for future leaders on how to handle the media when it’s not in their favor but also for journalists who are just starting out in their careers. Cases like what Katy Tur experienced could be a discouragement for young reporters who fear that they could be on the receiving end of humiliation from a public official, simply because of a story they wrote. On the other hand it could also be motivation to find the truth and report on it regardless of the response.

The common thread among what these professors have said is that these jabs at the media have caused them to reinforce basic journalistic principles to their students and shed light on how important these issues are. These fundamental values are what make journalism so essential to educating and informing citizens about the world around them.

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