Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: Press problems

Oh, good, the press is back.

The beginning of President Trump’s administration has been marked by a flurry of journalistic activity unmatched by anything we have seen for the past eight years.

A free press is the cornerstone of a democratic country. Any free nation needs an active, intelligent, hard-hitting and sometimes adversarial press.

The press holds government in check, curbs its worst impulses and provides the evidence and record for citizens to hold their elected officials accountable when they walk into the ballot box.

The press has done its job, for the most part, during the first two weeks of the Trump administration. Every act, statement and press conference has been placed under the closest scrutiny and the public response to Trump’s orders has been meticulously documented.

As someone who is concerned with limited government, holding elected officials accountable, and ensuring constitutional provisions are followed and ensuring the rule of law is upheld, I believe this is the type of journalism the United States needs at all times.

That press, at least before Jan. 20, has been strangely absent for the last eight years.

We saw no outrage during the six-month Iraqi refugee freeze under President Barack Obama. During the Fast-and-Furious scandal, when American guns funneled to cartels were used to kill American law enforcement officers, we heard little.

The mainstream press was seemingly absent during the massive expansion of drone strikes and the phone-and-pen presidency of the Obama 
administration.

Better late than never, I suppose.

I will be one of the first Republicans to criticize President Trump.

I did not support him in the primary or the general election. Like any elected official, assuming office does not mean you assume any person’s support, no matter the party label.

His actions, limiting free trade, immigration, issuing a flurry of executive orders without Congressional or inter-agency consultation and sheer ambivalence with the truth, upset me as much as anyone on this campus.

However, the double standard of immediate media responses to the mildest policy proposals coming out of the White House is making even the most skeptical conservative scratch their head in confusion.

For a free press to be able to do its job, it needs to be trusted as objective by both the left and the right.

After eight years where, fairly or unfairly, many on the right saw the press as giving the Obama administration a free pass, the Fourth Estate needs to take into account partisan differences in their reporting, or at least account for public perception of that reporting.

Here lies the danger of the active journalism described at the start of this column.

The line between journalism and political advocacy seems to be thinning, and there needs to be a clear and thick line between the two for the public to be willing to trust the press again.

The left needs the same level of scrutiny from the press that the right receives.

Restoring this trust is essential for the health of our democracy.

The power of the press to keep the facts objective, the headlines free from hyperbole and to trust voters to make judgments could do more for our country now than almost any other institution or movement throughout the next four years.

Let’s hope the media gets it done.

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