One common theme that has come up repeatedly throughout our time here in DC is, regardless of field or profession, everyone values trust and respect. We have heard from people in journalism, politics, and Congress about how important it is to trust and be trusted, respect and be respected. While many fields value trust and respect, they value them for different reasons and they often show trust and respect in different ways. Despite the differences between the fields, it is clear that trust and respect are important across every field when working in DC in order to create an environment in which progress can be made.
The first field that values trust and respect is journalism. Journalists value trust and respect both from a reader and writer perspective. Journalists need their readers to trust that they are getting authentic news that is easily accessible. Journalists also need their sources to trust that they have their best interest at heart and that they will do them no harm. Many of our site visits have been with reporters, editors, and major news companies. The first journalist who introduced us to this idea was Robert Costa. During our first lecture, Costa spoke about how people desire respect, and if you give it to them you are more than likely to receive it from them too. According to Costa, there are many readers who frequently ask “what can I trust” when it comes to the news and media. He argues that people should trust journalists who challenge themselves daily and those who write about what they know, not what they think. Costa said it’s all about challenging the press, so they can “stay sharp.” Another journalist we met with who spoke a lot to the importance of trust and respect in terms of sources was Matt Vasilogambros, a writer for Pew Stateline who writes long features about local and state policy. He mentioned the importance of being straightforward and respectful to the sources he talks to. Vasilogambros explained that a journalist must be willing to ask the “big questions” like who else should he talk to, what is important that isn’t being covered, and what is or is not being covered? It is important for journalists to ask these questions to show respect to those they are speaking with, and so they can get the whole story, not just what big, national news companies are telling people. He writes stories like “Meet the Craft Distillers of Native America” to help dispel stereotypes and to bring attention to things that really matter to people’s everyday lives. This story, in particular, works to quell the ‘drunken Indian’ stereotype, and draws attention to the prohibition of distilleries on tribal lands which was originally enacted to “choke off Native wealth” Vasilogambros seeks the truth, treats his sources with respect, and draws attention to things that deserve attention for the right reasons. Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee and MSNBC Political Analyst, mentioned the importance of “believ[ing] in the dignity of every human being” and journalists try to expose moments when humans are deprived of dignity. It is the truth-seeking that helps us to trust and respect journalists; it’s essentially the same thing as the “Golden Rule,” treat others as you wish to be treated. It is only then, that we as a society can expect to get things done and be able to hold each other accountable.
Another field that treasures trust and respect is politics. In politics, trust and respect are specifically important in elections and when crossing the partisan line to work together. Without trust and respect, nothing would get done, and people don’t vote for candidates they don’t trust or respect. In one of the lectures given by Dr. Lara Brown, the Director of the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University, she emphasized the importance of trust and respect when it comes to people running for office. Citizens often vote for candidates that they feel they can trust to best represent them. They also often vote for candidates they respect. This can be seen throughout history where the Presidents were typically highly respected military men who were competent enough to do the job correctly. Furthermore, current members of Congress also speak to how important trust and respect are when working with others. Congressman Tom Reed from New York and Congressman Jim McGovern from Massachusetts were on a panel talking about what it’s like to work across the aisle and how to actually get things done without letting egos or attitudes get in the way. They said the key to this is to trust and respect those from the opposite side. Much like in journalism, the Congressmen alluded to the ‘Golden Rule,’ treat others how you wish to be treated and often times they will do the same in return. David Corn, the Washington Bureau Chief of Mother Jones and an MSNBC Political Analyst argued that Trump may not get re-elected come 2020 because throughout his time in office he has been accused of things like lying and collusion. People have a hard time trusting Trump and many have lost respect for him because they feel lied to. Trust and respect are just as important in politics when it comes to getting things done as they are in journalism.
There are many people who we have heard from in the past few days ranging from journalists to politicians to Congressmen, and they have all mentioned how important trust and respect are. Trust and respect create a platform in which people can work together and get things done. Trust and respect help to facilitate productive collaboration and help to hold people accountable. This common theme has come up time and time again during our stay in DC.