I remember covering a President Donald Trump political rally earlier this year and walking into the media box. We were met with stares as we walked with our cameras and tripods in hand. But these weren’t stares of curiosity or fascination — they were stares of anger and hostility. All heads in the room turned to look at the media pass pinned to my blouse and began whispering to one another about how the media are “terrible,” “corrupt” and “chaotic.”
I was overcome with frustration as the massive crowd taunted us with boos and hateful chants. But the reactions I received that day are merely a fraction of the treatment journalists in the United States have faced this year.
Trump and his administration have repeatedly blasted the media, attacking them individually, scorning major news networks and barring specific news outlets from attending press briefings. His personal war with journalists has erupted into national prejudice against the media as a whole.
But from my own experiences reporting on these stories and watching the experiences of other journalists unfold on television, I realize that this hatred stems from a misconception that the media are out to get people. Contrary to popular belief, our job does not entail using the news to attack others, but using the truth to serve the people.
There is no greater weapon than truth. It teaches us to listen, ask questions and speak up for others. It is the foundation on which every news story must be built. Whether people support or disagree with it, every single story must be fair, right and true.
But Trump doesn’t see eye-to-eye with this vision. He sees truth as a personal attack and in response silences any news source that says something that differs from his beliefs. The only media he will listen to are newspapers and networks that are notorious for favoring him. But the reality is, we can’t mold the truth into what we want it to be. As journalists, we stand on a line that separates democracy and dictatorship, and if the truth is tainted in any way, society will cross over into the latter.
Trump’s claim that sources that disagree with him are “fake news” is dangerous for our democracy. To his defense, there are media outlets that bask in gossip rather than report the facts. But the problem is not that the media are reporting fake news, the problem is that we are becoming a society that denies truth.
We as a country have become tolerant of accepting Trump’s rhetoric rather than standing up for truth and justice. Choosing fabrication over fact strips the people’s freedom rather than allowing every person in this country the chance to speak freely.
The reason I want to become a journalist is because I want to use others’ stories for good. Journalism should not be just another career, but an outlet to serve the greater community. So, instead of letting the taunts from that rally frustrate me, I choose to let them fuel my passion for storytelling. I choose to seek truth.
So when you see the journalists being verbally attacked on the news, remember that the media are not the enemy. They are truth-seekers, voice-givers and listeners who fight for what is right, for what is fair and for what is true.