Columnist Benji Schwartz
Of the fanatics I’ve met in this world, I think journalists are the most impressive. Take my friend who covered the Women’s March on Washington. When police started pepper spraying protestors, he ran toward the commotion to get a better view and better pictures. There’s my father, who on Sept. 11 didn’t call home from his office in New York, because he was reporting on the event and never figured he could be in danger. And then there are all those journalists who cover war zones to make sure we can see what Gen. Sherman always knew — war is hell.
Our orange-in-chief shows himself to be a real dangerous kind of fool when he throws rhetoric around about how these truth-seekers are the enemy of the people that they try to inform.
There are any number of fair criticisms to be levied against President Trump for this new asinine comment of the week — something along the lines of a free press being a constitutional guarantee, or that those are insults befitting only a second-rate dictator.
But I want to focus on clearing things up. First of all, there is no media — there is no singular group with some board of directors that decides how the news will look each day. News is reported and edited by individuals, and all the news companies don’t have regular meetings together to determine content.
On top of that, while there is an abundance of low-quality news published by those who pretend to be real journalists, there’s also a lot of really amazing journalism in the world. And it’s the responsibility of people, not the press, to sort out which is which.
And finally, though these words are difficult to write, the president is correct. Journalists can be a dangerous enemy — to people like him.
Journalists, using words and truth, have taken down abusive administrations. They’ve shown wars to be costly, politicians to be deceiving demagogues and governments to be inefficient and corrupt.
Yet the power of the press relies entirely on the engagement of its audience, and too often these days people aren’t willing to go through the necessary steps, like curating the news they read or consistently dedicating themselves to staying up to date.
Granted, while Trump was criticizing “the media” for having an anti-American agenda, there are also far too many who criticize journalism for its attempts to remain neutral.
Now whether or not anything can be neutral is another debate, but the attempt to remain so is important.
This election especially showed us what happens when people receiving their news from activist sources. When purveyors of “news” seek to push a point, they divide an already-fragmented society. And if news is meant to promote a cause, can it be trusted to inform people of things that run counter to that purpose?
The free press has been an important and lasting American institution. I think it will continue to be so long after this administration has passed into history, but only if we remain active and engaged.