The Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication

The Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, shown here, will co-host the new Master of Fine Arts in film production with the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences beginning fall 2020. (Photo/Reann Huber, www.reannhuber.com)

Since the presidential election last November, the mainstream media has received a lot of backlash for the rise in alleged “fake news.” Despite some shortcomings, however, the media is not completely at fault for the way people and events are represented in stories.

President Trump blames the media for the growing division between Americans and has repeatedly bashed the media for misrepresenting him. After the protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump complained about reactions to his comments and referred to the media as “sick people.” This sort of commentary on the media continues to harm his relationship with news outlets and causes more negative stories.

News stories themselves are partly responsible for negative attention, but the statements of others are what people will inevitably get upset over, especially those of the most powerful man in the world. Reporting requires journalists to gather the facts and present them to the public, and the media should not be blamed if readers do not like those facts.

When encountered with facts they don’t like, people often refer to them as fake news.

“There’s a big difference between somebody who goes out and purposely deceives putting out a fake story and somebody who says, ‘Gee, you guys are reporting the facts, but I don’t like it,’” said Dr. John Soloski, journalism professor in Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

It is true that reporters and writers can get carried away when writing an article, and this is not encouraged behavior at any level. However, it is oftentimes the speaker or the person interviewed who is responsible for their image within the context of a news story. Sometimes statements are praised by some as being straightforward and brutally honest while others find them unflattering or inappropriate, but the media should not be attacked for quoting someone else’s controversial words.

“Of course, the news media aren’t infallible. They’re going to make mistakes and they do. And what do they do when they make a mistake? They retract it,” Soloski said.

It is perfectly rational to get upset when the facts are wrong because that is the fault of the journalist. Getting upset because of the facts themselves, however, is not.

“If they’re not doing it, who’s going to do it? Who’s going to verify the ‘facts’ Trump is putting out there?” Soloski said.

The First Amendment ensures freedom of the press, and antagonizing the media over every little thing does not encourage positive dialogue between the press, citizens and the government. The political division the United States is experiencing is not solely due to the media, but also clashes between and within both major political parties. Instead of blaming the media for quoting the facts, the facts themselves and their consequences should be at the center of debate.

 

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