politics

COLUMN: Trust journalists for credible information



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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton participate in the third and final presidential debate at the University of Nevada Las Vegas on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Las Vegas. (Yin Bogu/Xinhua/Sipa USA/TNS) Yin Bogu and Yin Bogu

The closer we get to the Nov. 8 election, the more upsetting my Facebook feed gets. I’m going to make an assumption and say I’m not alone, especially among fellow Media School students.

Just last week, a blog post kept reappearing on my news feed that was so maddening, I broke one of my own cardinal rules of social media: Thou shalt not comment on political posts.

I couldn’t help it. I agonized over whether to hit the launch button on my already typed-out comment, but I knew all along it had to be done. Originally shared by someone I went to high school with, the post was already gaining traction among millennials from my hometown.

The blog post is titled “Why I’m Voting for Donald Trump” and was written by Kelly Quelette, a 25-year-old mother who identifies herself as Republican, Christian and a victim of sexual abuse. In 1,400 words, Quelette managed to not only reiterate claims that have been proven dishonest or just false, but also make her opinions emotionally appealing. The young woman who shared it on Facebook had sold it as “informative” for anyone yet undecided.

Most upsetting, I think, is that so many people have lost trust in journalists. They abhor what they call “the media,” but they don’t think twice before taking the opinions of any random person on the internet and accepting them as truth. It’s important to recognize that there are several critical differences between these people and reporters.

For one, journalists are held to high ethical standards. Bloggers aren’t.

Journalists have an obligation to attempt neutrality in their reporting. Bloggers don’t.

Most importantly, journalists spend years learning to do thorough research, balance all sides of an issue and accept punishment if they make factual errors. In short, they have degrees in this stuff. Even opinion columnists aren’t allowed to make things up based on their own agendas.

And while no one is denying the presence of bias in journalism, at least we know those biases are internal to the reporters themselves — meaning that we can be almost certain they aren’t getting paid by their employers to put a certain spin on things or write lies.

Bloggers, Quelette included, don’t work for anyone, so there’s no telling what their motives are. It would be naïve to assume they are 
credible.

In my comment on this Facebook post, I didn’t argue. I didn’t question the intelligence of anyone.

I simply shared the website for PolitiFact, a non-partisan fact-checking organization, and said we can’t afford to be spreading lies. Not in this election. Not when the very definition of “American” is at stake.

Please realize journalists are not the enemy. They don’t go into the news industry for fame or status, and they surely don’t do it for money.

They work long hours. They talk to people they hate. In the end, journalists are doing us a public service by sorting through mounds of information to separate fact from fiction, tirelessly calling sources and being at important events when we can’t attend.

Let’s do all journalists a favor and have a little faith in their ability to do their jobs — and not discount them by turning to random people for credible information.

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