Trump and the Rebirth of Press Freedom
President Donald Trump's administration is bullying news outlets and trafficking in “alternative facts.” But Trump’s challenge to the status quo may not be an entirely bad thing: journalists now have an opportunity to root out the bad habits associated with cozying up to those in power.
NEW YORK – US President Donald Trump’s administration has shocked the mainstream press by bullying news outlets and unabashedly trafficking in “alternative facts” (also known as lies). But Trump’s challenge to the media status quo may not be an entirely bad thing: journalists now have an opportunity to root out the bad habits associated with cozying up to those in power.
Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, drew gasps recently when he told the New York Times that the news media represent “the opposition party.” Bannon may have wanted to disorient his interlocutors, but he also inadvertently reminded them of the adversarial role they are meant to play. In a healthy democracy, the press helps citizens hold the government accountable, by vigorously interrogating official policies and behavior.
Unfortunately, it has been decades since America had that kind of news media. Instead, the press has allowed multiple presidential administrations to spoon-feed it information. News organizations in the United States have prioritized access to the corridors of power above all else, even when access is conditioned on avoiding uncomfortable questions or accepting evasive answers.