It’s Newsworthy

By Sarah Schroeder

The news industry has gotten a lot of attention in the recent weeks, especially the phenomenon of ‘fake-news’.

During his press conference on Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump refused to answer valid questions from a CNN reporter, saying “no, not you, your organization is terrible. Quiet. Quiet. Don’t be rude. Don’t be rude. Don’t. Be. Rude. I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news.”

Regarding allegations that Russia has compromising information about Donald Trump, he said “It’s all fake news — it’s phony stuff, it didn’t happen and it was gotten by opponents of ours.”

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Quote by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall at the Newseum. Photo by Sarah Schroeder.

Trumps allegations are not only not true (because the organizations are not fake-news), but his comments were inappropriate and out-of-place. These allegations appear to be happening because Trump didn’t want to answer tough questions. This is concerning regarding his upcoming presidency where he will be required to answer the tough questions.

Since the election, fake-news has gathered a plethora of attention. Facebook feeds are filled with the sharing of articles with no factual basis, seemingly credible websites are posting completely false information, and people seem to not pay enough attention to what they are consuming and sharing to distinguish the difference between genuine news and false news. Fake news can be both deliberate attacks aiming to advance a political agenda, dangerous and undemocratic news, and simply unverified information that is posted to break a story or meet a deadline, but includes information that is not (or may not be) accurate. Fake news stories still attract a good amount of attention, which may be because they have flashy headlines that appeal to readers or they are breaking shocking stories. This is not journalism and hurts genuine journalism that is working to inform the American people and provide invaluable services to our democracy.

Visiting the Newseum today was a wonderful experience because it combined my two favorite things: politics and news. The two are inextricably tied together, so it only makes sense that a museum would feature the two. The museum made up for what I felt was lacking from my visits to other museums during this trip: both very current content and a look at how journalism influences politics, and politics influences journalism. As a student of the Journalism school, I appreciate and have an understanding of how journalism and the news business work, but I am certainly not an expert, so I gained a plethora of knowledge this afternoon.

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Front-page of newspapers following 9/11. The Des Moines Register is on the left with the headline “Bush vows to strike back.” Photo by Sarah Schroeder.

After seeing Pulitzer-Prize winning photographs, today’s front pages from every major newspaper world-wide, and a large segment of the Berlin Wall, I was left wondering about what is actually newsworthy. Is it what the public finds interesting? Is it what journalists think is important? Is is because it is current or ‘breaking’? Is it significant and does it affect people?

News covers a wide variety of subjects, from politics to celebrities to sports to crime. All of these are interesting to people and are happening right now. Sports bring people a sense of commonality and competition, famous people are interesting and important to a lot of people, and crime is a sexy topic and can impact readers’ lives. But what actually makes something worth reporting on? I think this discussion is extremely complicated and deserves deep consideration. Of course fake news cannot continue to be confused with genuine journalism, but what else can we do to ensure that journalism reports are free and fair and give the American people the information they need?

Trump’s continued decrees that credible news organizations, such as CNN, are ‘fake news’ and are unworthy of reporting and asking tough questions undermines journalists’ ability to do their jobs and serve the American people.

As Hugh Grant said, “A free press is the cornerstone of democracy; there is no question about that.”

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