Barely more than one in 10 Americans surveyed by the Gallup Poll have “a great deal of trust” in the news media, while 28 percent profess “a fair amount” of trust, for a total approval score of 41 percent.
That compares with President Donald Trump’s 50 percent approval rating, according to Gallup, as of April 28.
When Gallup measures the most respected professions, journalists rank near the bottom, way below auto mechanics, lawyers, policemen, and military officers.
But don’t hold your breath wondering if the journalism professors demanding that Trump be censored will ask themselves why the American people have so little trust or respect for most of the reporters and editors trained in their classrooms.
I say that in the spirit of anger, disgust, and sadness that comes when one sees a profession you’ve loved and practiced for 35 years being destroyed by those who ought to be protectors of its credibility.
“People who advocate censorship should be kept as far away as possible from journalism classrooms.”
I refer to the 531 individuals who signed a recent letter to the chiefs of ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and MSNBC demanding “that the live, unedited airing of the Daily White House Task Force Briefings stop.”
“Because Donald Trump uses them as a platform for misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19, they have become a serious public health hazard—a matter of life and death for viewers who cannot easily identify his falsehoods, lies, and exaggerations.”
But it’s not only Trump’s daily coronavirus briefings these people demand be censored:
“We ask that no speech, rally, or press conference involving the president be covered live anymore. The risk of passing along bad information and harmful advice is too great.
“News organizations need to attend carefully to what he says and only share information that they can independently verify. By asking themselves ‘is what he said something we should be amplifying?’ news organizations can offset the damage these briefings are producing.”
That is a demand for censorship, pure and simple. Damn the First Amendment. Damn the people’s right to know. Damn transparency and accountability in government.
Journalists these professors trained will decide what the rest of us will be told about Trump. This is elitism of the worst sort.
Curiously, Medium, which published the letter, headlined it as the product of “professors of communications, journalism, and media studies.”
Sure enough, all of the “best” schools are represented, including Harvard, Yale, Penn, Northwestern, NYU, Southern Cal, Fordham, Jefferson’s UVA, Michigan, Missouri, and so on.
At least three Oklahoma professors are among the signers, including Josh Watson of Oklahoma Christian University, Patrick Meirick of the University of Oklahoma, and Ben Peters of the University of Tulsa.
Were it my decision, every one of these people now in positions of authority in the education and preparation of America’s journalists would be fired today. People who advocate censorship should be kept as far away as possible from journalism classrooms.
It should be noted that not all 531 of the signers are actually in American journalism education. Dozens of the names have no affiliation, but they might still be in such positions. Dozens more are from foreign countries.
Now, let me be clear about something the signers weren’t about themselves (as OCPA’s Ray Carter decisively demonstrated): I don’t profess to be objective or unbiased about Trump, or any other public official or public policy issue.
But I do care about facts and the public’s right to know. I entered the newsroom as a general assignment reporter on the national desk at The Washington Times in 1985 after serving five years in the Reagan administration. Before that, I worked on Capitol Hill for two Republican representatives and a Republican senator.
I am a conservative and I’ve spent the bulk of my 35 years in newsrooms of publications these professors would undoubtedly reject as “right-wing rags,” or worse.
But Wes Pruden, then the Times managing editor, taught me early on to “get it first, but first get it right” and that’s been my guiding principle ever since. Along the way, I also testified before the House of Representatives and the Senate on the importance of transparency and accountability in government.
Due in part to my congressional testimony and related efforts, plus the six years I spent training other journalists to use data analysis to get beyond official spin and the hundreds of editorials and columns I wrote on these issues, I was inducted in 2006 into the National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame. That’s not a boast, it’s a fact and one of which I am most proud.
Being in the newsroom and working with journalists “getting the story” has been my passion for these many years. But now, my prayer is this essential, constitutionally sanctioned profession will somehow be saved from the rot and hypocrisy represented by the likes of these 531 censors.