Now that inauguration day has come and gone, and President Trump’s 100th day in office is quickly approaching, there are a few reminders that bear repeating. During the campaign season, the mainstream media made a mistake in the amount of attention they gave to Donald Trump, beginning with when he was just one of several Republican candidates. The amount of attention he received not only created the media storm surrounding him, but also gave agency to those in our country who support his harmful actions.
Trump and his loyal band of followers highlight the deeply instilled racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia both in American society and abroad. The amount of media attention Trump’s antics and hateful rhetoric receives only seems to fuel the fire rather than sparking productive discourse and social change. While we must talk about the ridiculous tweets that Trump writes, most media sources have taken the wrong approach to ensuring that the American people are aware of what our Commander-in-Chief is writing on the internet. Rather than inciting conversation or actively working against hate speech, it often just begins a viral media frenzy. As someone who hopes to pursue a career in political journalism and is a staunch believer in free press and journalism’s role in social activism, this is disappointing.
It seems that since the election, many media sources have tried to reverse their approach and have instead begun to more openly hold Trump accountable for his comments and actions. While I do believe that this is a much better approach, I think there are still some ways in which the media must remain vigilant and aware of their influence. Although several mainstream sources such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today have effectively waged war against Trump and his cabinet, they still too often fail to hone in on the most important and policy-altering aspects of Trump’s presidency. While articles go on and on about the latest tweetstorm Trump released — which shouldn’t be ignored, especially considering how absurd most of them are and the implications they hold for our national security — it appears that these pieces often overshadow much larger issues of policy and decision-making in the White House.
Recently, Trump signed an anti-Planned Parenthood bill that would allow states to withhold federal funding from organizations that provide abortions. This is a major move in taking away affordable health care from millions of Americans each year. However, I read more articles about what was going on with the White House Easter Egg Roll than with this major law. I only saw a few articles with similarly worded headlines such as “Trump quietly signs law…” and “While you weren’t looking…”
All of this is to say that the media first must be especially cognizant of its role in politically and socially turbulent times to remain a vigilant watchdog over our country’s leaders. Journalism is an imperative social institution that has the power to decide what we, or the average, news-reading person, know in the way it gives weight to particular events, people and stories. Second, in our everyday lives we must also continue to be active participants by ensuring that we know what is going on in our communities and across the country. We must remember to go beyond the ‘slacktivism’ by committing to action. We can do this by calling our local representatives, marching in the streets, supporting our peers and much more. We all saw the amazing call to action in the days after Trump’s inauguration; let’s continue this by being informed media consumers and active community members.