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Reece: The State of the Press

Pictured+above+is+Brady+Suttles+and+friend+Timothy+Lewis+at+the+Trump+Rally+the+editors+of+the+Vision+attended+back+in+November.
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Reece: The State of the Press

Pictured above is Brady Suttles and friend Timothy Lewis at the Trump Rally the editors of the Vision attended back in November.

Pictured above is Brady Suttles and friend Timothy Lewis at the Trump Rally the editors of the Vision attended back in November.

Gina Nguyen

Pictured above is Brady Suttles and friend Timothy Lewis at the Trump Rally the editors of the Vision attended back in November.

Gina Nguyen

Gina Nguyen

Pictured above is Brady Suttles and friend Timothy Lewis at the Trump Rally the editors of the Vision attended back in November.

Davan Reece, Staff Writer

INTRODUCTION

Every child growing up is asked the same question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Some kids want to be singers, astronauts, or Presidents. For me, the answer to that question evolved over time. I wanted to be a doctor, an actor, a lawyer and everything else that made up adolescent dreams. However, as I prepare for my college career, I believe that I have finally found my calling in life: journalism.

“Why would you go you into journalism? It’s a dying field!”

I can’t count how many times people have asked me that question. Some berate me for the decision, citing that I will make nothing more than pocket change for going into the field. They claim that journalism is on its way out, that the rise of the internet and fake news has put the profession six feet under.

Yet as a Mississippian who experiences the lack of voice in a national community while also watching my own community roll their eyes at the national news, I refuse to believe that journalism is dying. Perhaps, it is going through a rough patch, and it may be changing at its core, but the foundation of journalism has been around for centuries, and will continue for centuries to come. Journalism is not dead. Journalism is not dying.

JOURNALISM THROUGH THE CONSTITUTION

Most of us have heard the term “the pen is mightier than the sword.” It is an old adage coined in 1839 by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, but he wasn’t the first to reiterate the idea that words have the potential to cause great change. Before 1839, similar phrases have been echoed by the likes of Shakespeare, Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson.

As it turns out, Thomas Jefferson wasn’t the only founding father that valued the power of the pen.

When the colonist were in the midst of a rebellion against the oppressive British monarchy, Thomas Jefferson and other prominent figures used the press as a weapon; they knew that truth through news had the power to ignite the passions of unify dissatisfied colonist.

Once the Revolutionary War ended and the Founding Fathers gathered to draft the document that would become the United States Constitution, Jefferson and the other writers noticed the power of the pen, so they made the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press and integral part of rights belonging to U.S. citizens.

In the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the founding father laid out plainly that the American Press and their ideals will always be free of interference from the government. “Congress shall make no law…. abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”

The Constitution clearly states that Congress, and by some degree, the government as a whole, cannot and should not limit the freedoms possessed by members of the press, or any other citizen for that matter. Constitutionally, even those critical of the government should be allowed the same freedoms of those who are in love with the leader.

Nevertheless, as 2019 begins another tumultuous year in politics, we see that the press has transformed from the beacon of freedom that helped spark the Revolutionary War to “the enemy of the people.” Every other day, sparring remarks from public officials fly towards journalist and vice versa.

In the past four months, major events in American politics and journalism have led to a change in atmosphere for the American press. President Trump banned (and reluctantly reinstated) CNN correspondent Jim Acosta from White House Press Conferences. BuzzFeed launched a discredited false report against the President. And, perhaps most disheartening, a Saudi journalist was murdered because of his desire for truth.

With the tension mounting and the freedom of the press appearing to dwindle, a deep look into the state of the American free press is needed or America could lose a vital column in its coliseum of liberty.

JOURNALISM THROUGH THE MEDIA

If the American people want to know why the controversial relationship between politicians and the mainstream media has reached a boiling point, they should look no further than the President himself. Ironically for his entire career, President Trump has been in the front of the camera. Before jumping into the realm of politics, he was a reality TV star who learned through his time on the screen and the presence of other celebrities how to capture the gaze of the camera, and most importantly, how to earn ratings.

According to Jack Shaffer of Politico Magazine, the media “failed to prevent a reality TV star from exploiting its infotainment vulnerabilities.”

Shaffer argues that then candidate Trump exploited the mainstream media’s desire for high ratings by making inflammatory remarks during his rallies to receive more coverage than his opponents. This created a vicious chain reaction. Trump would hold a rally, coverage of the rally would achieve ratings gold, then the media would air Trump’s rallies in full, allowing Trump to receive more recognition with the voting base. Trump’s previous gig as the business mogul turned reality TV personality catapulted him to the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, and later that year, the presidency.

Trump’s remarks led to less than favorable views from some American journalist, particularly those who lean left. Trump saw that he caught the media in a catch-22. Either they air and discuss all of Trump’s rallies, or they suffer ratings suicide, pushing the American public to their competitors. When the political analysts and anchors began to dispute his claims, Trump would rag them, labelling them as “fake news.” Once again, a brutal cycle would occur. The media would attack Trump, Trump would respond, and the media would attack once again. Trump called on his supporters to disregard the mainstream media, calling them the “enemy of the people.”

Trump supporters loved this. For years, people have felt forgotten about. All they have seen on the news stations are Obama and establishment Republicans, the same politicians that they felt forgot about them. Now, they had Trump, the man of the people, who they would follow blindly. Once Trump told them that the forgotten men and women were forgotten no more, they were invigorated, and the enemy of Trump would be the enemy of them. When the media showed their partisanship, Trump gained supporters.

However, this created a conundrum. If a station catered to the majority of their viewers political viewpoints, they saw higher ratings. The two obvious examples are Fox News and CNN. Fox News is typically categorized as a right-leaning news source and CNN is seen as a left-catering outlet.

The phrase “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” comes to pay in these situations. If you enjoy President Trump when CNN stereotypically does not, you may view CNN as your enemy. If Fox News also views CNN as their rival or their enemy, instead of their colleagues, then the enemy (Fox News) of your enemy (CNN) is your friend. Obviously, the same could be said the other way around.

You can look at this situation economically. While competition among rivals in an industry helps the industry as a whole, blantat and shallow hate lead to a toxic environment for the members of the industry and the consumer, or in this case, the viewer.

Interestingly enough, it was the same President who made these bitter rivals come together. When President Trump banned CNN White House Press Reporter Jim Acosta in November 2018, Fox News came to the defense of CNN, going as far as to file a brief in support of the news organization after they took the Trump administration to trial over Acosta’s banning.

Nevertheless, President Trump made the dangerous assertion that he has the authority to limit whatever journalist he wishes. According to Vox, Justice Department Lawyers argued in court that “The President and White House possess the same broad discretion to regulate access to the White House for journalists (and other members of the public)…”

This is dangerous and unprecedented move from President Trump. While Trump did not ban CNN as a whole, the very premise that he is capable and willing to do so is an extreme cause for concern. Additionally, Trump’s war against mainstream news causes a ripple effect, one that spreads from the colors of the television screen to the lives of the American people.

The conflict between the President and the mainstream media fuels the greater division present in modern-America. According to Politico, 64% of Americans believe that the media is the largest contributor to the divide in America, while 56% hold President Trump is accountable. It is mainstream to hate the mainstream media.

Just last week, BuzzFeed News released a bombshell report claiming that President Trump instructed his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress when he was questioned about the President’s dealing with Russia during the 2016 campaign. The Special Committee investigating the Russia situation disputed the report, and President Trump called the incident “a very sad day for Journalism, but a great day for our Country!”

The BuzzFeed article is tragic, as it comes at a time where journalism needs something real. With American trust in mainstream media falling, the article is just another blow to that trust. With both the President and members of the media engaged in presenting lies disguised as truths, the people have nowhere to turn to, and it is hurting the profession of journalism itself.

JOURNALISM THROUGH THE WORLD

American Journalism has found itself in a dreadful situation. The mainstream media is being challenged by independent sources online, is being attacked by the President of the United States, and is not trusted by the American public.

It’s not just American journalism that is threatened. Journalism across the globe is also at stake. Recently, Jamal Khashoggi was killed for posing a threat to the Saudi Crown Prince. Khashoggi, like most journalists, was on the pursuit of truth, and he died while on the hunt; he was silenced and suppressed for his beliefs and his desire to chase justice. In the Crown Prince’s eyes, he has gotten away with the crime. President Trump once again acted disparagingly towards journalism and took no action against Saudi Arabia for the crime, even though it directly acts against the fundamental ideas that America is built upon.

However, something has happened that the Crown Prince might not have accounted for. He was caught, and something has lit. Khashoggi was murdered, but his death created a microphone. The Crown Prince sought to silence Khashoggi, and instead, gave him a voice louder than any voice he had alive. That’s because it is impossible to silence truth. It’s impossible to suppress knowledge. It’s impossible to censor fundamental facts. It is impossible to silence to people.

JOURNALISM THROUGH ME

I am a 16 year-old, white male from Mississippi, one of the poorest states in the country, and also one of the most red. Growing up white, one may assume that both sides of my family are hardline, racist Republicans, ones who wish to repress the rights of minorities, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. While the latter two are mostly correct for one side of my family, none of them view themselves better than that of other races.

I grew up in a split household like a lot of other children in the United States. My father’s side tended to be a mix of Republicans and moderates, while my mother’s side was mostly Democrats. I was raised around conflicting political identities and a less than ideal home situation.

At one point in my life, I moved to the Mobile area of Alabama, and life seemed good on the surface. We lived in a nice neighborhood, I was well feed, and I was attending a good school. But one day, I returned home from a summer with my father to find out that we didn’t have a home anymore; we were to move into a hotel temporarily. But it wasn’t temporarily. We lived through for upwards of eight months, and this put a huge strain on my family’s relationship that never healed.

Flash forward seven years. I had been living with my dad for about six years and life was going well. Then, in August of 2018, I get the call that my mother had passed, and everyone is being secretive around me about the situation. I felt many emotions, but one of the most prominent was the desire for truth.

It is here that it finally clicked just why I wanted to be a journalist, despite numerous people telling me it is a terrible career choice. I wanted to understand what happened and why it happened and I wanted people held accountable; I wanted justice and I wanted the truth. My whole life the truth has been held secret, with people believing that what I don’t know won’t hurt me, but it does the opposite. The fear of not knowing what events perspired consumed me, and the only way of solving that fear was to find out the truth.

To me, journalism is the symbolic representation of that truth; journalism breeds an environment of facts, intellectual ideals and justice, and I, just like everyone else, have the fundamental desire for truth.

JOURNALISM THROUGH TRUTH

Many argue that journalism is dying or is already a dead field. Yet, I see the opposite. The mainstream media has turned away from its basic ideals. Some would rather choose ratings over rationalities, while others would rather gain likes that legitimacy. Some may even resort to rivalries rather than what is right.

The fact of the matter is, journalism in America, and around the world, is not dying. Journalism represents the desire of truth, it represents the human ambition for justice. Journalism, at is core, is the voice of the people.

When the British were attempting to silence rebel newspapers during the Revolution, they were not seeing journalism as a dead field, they saw it as an obstacle to their authority. The Crown Prince did not see Khashoggi’s passion futile, he saw it dangerous to his regime.

When authoritative figures put our way of life at risk, the press is our weapon. When they instill fear, we instill the truth. If we allow the current track of American journalism to theoretically kill the field, then we lose the only true objection to the enemy’s greatest tool: fear.

American journalism and the journalism field in general will not die. The aspiration for truth, facts and information will forever exist. We may not consume news ten years from now, but the foundation of the free press will forever stand.

Journalism is the hope in oppression, the collective gathering against tyranny and censorship, and the people will never let that go. There will always be a place for people to write, discuss, and release the truth.

The truth has a funny way of making its way to the light. It may take days, weeks or years, but one day, journalist, whether it be large corporations or everyday journalist fulfilling the aforementioned desire, will discover it. And other journalist will be the first ones on the scene, ready to report the truth.

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About the Contributors
Davan Reece, Staff Writer

Davan Reece is a junior from Byram, Mississippi at MSMS and a staff writer in The Vision. After his MSMS tenure, he plans on attending Northwestern, where...

Gina Nguyen, Photography Editor

Gina Nguyen, this year's Photography Editor, is from d'Iberville, MS. She is a part of the MSMS Graduating Class of 2020. Being a part of The Vision gives...

1 Comment

One Response to “Reece: The State of the Press”

  1. Aaliyah Zion on January 26th, 2019 5:40 pm

    Wonderful opinion! Journalism is not dying profession. However, there so many different things done with it now that one can argue that it is spread thin. If you want to be a journalist, nothing should stop you! Pursue your dreams, and be happy with your life. BTW: this article was well written.

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