Opinion: Relationship between public, media more important than ever

Matt Poe

Donald Trump’s unlikely and unremarkable crusade to the White House demonstrated that all conventional rules of politics have been shattered, and the remaining shards of those rules have yet to be found. As I’ve written many times before (and far too many, at that), nothing about Trump’s campaign to become leader of the free world was ordinary.

As someone who has repeatedly damned virtually everything the man has expressed, a small sliver of an idea remained untouched in the back of my mind that once he got elected, he would drop the shtick and act how the president should act.

But just over 24 hours after being inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States, Trump and his newly-appointed press secretary/lap dog Sean Spicer conducted one of the most bizarre press conferences I’ve ever witnessed.

The topic of conversation? Alleged media coverage of the inauguration to purposely make Trump look bad.

Spicer, in his first address as press secretary, stated numerous incorrect facts about attendance records of the inauguration, amongst other things that are so incredibly far down on the list of immediate concerns that I can’t believe we’re actually talking about this.

I’m not even going to state some of the things he said here because there’s this thing called “the internet” and his falsehoods don’t deserve this precious space in my column. It’s not too long, so let me give you a few minutes to watch it (takes bathroom break, smokes cigarette).

The entire thing served more as a warning or rant to the press and a message to the American people that the focus of this newly-elected president is asinine.

But fear not! Less than a full day later, counselor to the president and fact-checker extraordinaire Kellyanne Conway stated to NBC’s Chuck Todd that Spicer gave “alternative facts” to the press about the crowd size.

I applaud Todd for not throwing up on himself during the course of the interview.

Journalists have always been disliked by many people for many reasons; it’s nothing new. But what we have here with Trump and his administration’s lack of clear acceptance of factual evidence is unprecedented.

It goes far beyond anything this country has seen before from such a high ranking official, let alone the president. It’s a blatant disregard of truth and consequence.

And you know who suffers from all this? It’s not I, the left-leaning columnist whose work you may call fake news if you can be indoctrinated so easily. It’s not the television news networks, newspapers, magazines or any other form of media that you digest. You’re not “sticking it” to them by any means.

Who suffers? It’s you. Everyday people.

The public has forgotten (or never cared to learn) what role the press serves in this country: the vessel to the public’s right to know (shout out to Joshua Hatch on Twitter). Some journalists have forgotten the role as well — but rest assured, we will be continually reminded of it in Trump’s America. It’s only been one weekend of his term and we have two stunning examples of it.

I’m in Washington, D.C. for the semester and some of the remarks I overheard about the media from people walking around on Inauguration Day was beyond me. It’s the new blanket statement to just blame the media for backlash on anything, especially in regards to Trump. That’s what he wants you to do.

Hell, he won over many in this nation doing so.

How can you, the everyday news-getter, play your part? Invest in more than just the cable news networks, subscribe to investigative journalism, listen to NPR, PBS News Hour, follow the Associated Press on social media, amongst many others. Hold me accountable, as I will do unto you. And for God’s sake, learn how to spot a fake news site and don’t share it.

We’ve become so embattled between political parties and the media that we are seriously at the point where we have people like Conway saying things like “alternative facts.” How did we get to this point?

Unless the public and press alike begin to ask real questions and provide those questions with substantial facts, I’m afraid I’m going to be asking myself that question for a long time to come. But then again, this is what so many of you wanted in the first place.

Matt Poe is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].