Journalism in the era of Trump and Social Media
Politicians and the press have always had a unique symbiotic relationship in a democracy. Through this relationship, the press has the power to make or break a politician as it fulfills its duty to keep the people informed.
However the recent political climate in the United States has turned this system on its head. So far, Donald Trump’s presidential term has been marked by a consistent disrespect and outright bullying of members of the press both in mainstream and social media.
Trump’s presidency has been peppered with a series ‘alternative facts’, a term coined by his administration. His wilful misleading of the public through the information he spreads to the press makes a mockery of the fifth estate and the power he holds as the leader of a nation.
Not only has Trump derided the press as a whole, but has brutally gone after individual journalists. It is impossible to forget the time he imitated and mocked a disabled reporter in a speech or when he shut down a latino reporter in a press conference. By going after individuals as well as organizations Trump reveals his total disregard not only for the duty of the press but also for his own duty to the American people.
This behaviour doesn’t stop at mainstream media. Trump was a powerful presence on social media throughout his campaign and has an understanding of the journalistic power of the medium.
Only a month into the presidency, he has already blocked one government organization’s right to free press. After re-tweeting a picture comparing Obama’s 2009 inauguration turn out to Trump’s 2017 turn out, the National Park Service was given a notice from Washington to “immediately cease use of government Twitter accounts until further notice”. This goes beyond micromanaging to a blatant infringement of rights, as his behaviour openly blocks the first amendment right to freedom of press.
Role of the Press
A democratically elected leader is supposed to answer to his people. He bears a responsibility on his shoulders to listen to their grievances and try to please them. This does not include censoring the press when they do not match his ideals.A free press is arguably one of the most powerful weapons of a democracy and without it we cease to have a democracy. Although Trump’s behaviour may not seem too bad right now, it could instil a fear of censorship in journalists. This will stop them from reporting on things that show him in an unfavourable light out of fear of being silenced. That is why it becomes crucial for journalists to put their duty to people above their duty to the president and give an unbiased account of world events.
It remains to be seen if journalism survives the era of Trump without major repercussions.
A talk on the issue of ‘Journalism in the era of Trump and Social Media: Where does the fourth estate go?’ by Sameer Hashmi, a BBC News Correspondent based in India, will be organised by Article-19, School of Communication’s (SOC) annual media fest. It is set to take place on February 9 at 2 pm, at the SOC auditorium.
And in the interest of transparency, this article has been brought to you as a part of The Manipal Journal’s collaboration with Article-19, the School of Communication’s annual media fest.