Opinion: The “Opposition Party” platform

Nicholas Hunter

Nicholas Hunter

In an interview with The New York Times, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon stated, “the media here is the opposition party” and “the media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.”

His statement was backed by President Donald Trump, who said, in an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network, he thinks “the media is the opposition party in many ways.” 

Trump went on to say “the opposition party is losing badly.”

I could spend the next 450 words going on a tirade over their statements. I could get angry, make a few irresponsible remarks about him and prove every Trump supporter who reads this right — or, I can throw him a bone.

I can say yes, we are the “Opposition Party,” and I think it’s time we develop a platform.

And I’d like to offer up its preamble:

We, the Opposition Party, are journalists. Not elected politicians, not lobbyists, not bureaucrats. We are citizens who have dedicated our lives to the discovery and publication of the truth above all else.

The Opposition Party’s members serve two roles: to report facts as they are to the public and to provide a public voice to all sides of an issue.

As reporters, our responsibility to report is not to persuade, but rather, to inform. We strive to give the public information that is not only factual, but will allow them to see a broader picture of the world apart from the experiences of their daily lives. Without the information provided by journalists, the public is left to depend on what politicians and public figures decide they need to know regardless of whether that information is fact or fiction.

And as we work to find and disseminate the truth, our job is also to allow members of the public we serve to tell their stories on a public platform. Without the voice of the people alongside factual reporting, facts and figures become unimportant and irrelevant. Allowing facts and public opinion to exist in unison allows those with opposing views to hear one another in a different light, as well as turn the information back toward politicians.

The goal of what we do is ultimately to arm the people with information, so they are capable of holding the government that serves them accountable. By extension of that, when politicians have motive to misinform and confuse the public, we must fact-check them, separating truth from fiction and clarify what lies in between.

As we are aware of what has resulted when politicians decide what should be public information in the past, we see today’s political climate as an indicator that there is no greater time than now to look wider, dig deeper and aim higher to increase the quality of journalism in the face of attempted de-legitimization from members of the White House staff, including the president.

This statement about the roles of journalism may seem obvious, but as distrust in media grows and a deep questioning of our motives and validity is taking place, clarifying what we do and why we do it is needed. “Alternative facts” is an idea cooked up by Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway to back him out of a corner, not a tenet of journalism. Deep down, the public knows this.

It is my hope that as the Trump administration makes further attempts to invalidate and discredit the media, we will double-down on our roles as journalists.

We are the Opposition Party, that is for sure. But there is no way we will, in Bannon’s words, “keep our mouths shut and just listen for a while.” They better start listening to us and to the American people.

Nicholas Hunter is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].