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Bian: It’s both a great and terrifying time to be a journalist

Andrea Bian, Columnist

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Criticism and suppression of the press have not been a new development since President Trump came into office. Recently, though, it seems worse than ever.

On Nov. 7, President Trump and CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta engaged in a heated exchange at a press conference regarding immigration, in which the President called Acosta “a terrible person” and “the enemy of the people.” The White House subsequently revoked Acosta’s press pass. Days later on Nov. 9, President Trump referred to a question asked by CNN reporter Abby Phillip as “stupid.” He never answered her query.

A judge ruled on Nov. 16 for the White House to return Acosta’s press credentials after CNN sued. It’s a relief to hear that Acosta was rightfully restored his duty as a journalist.

These two incidents, however, are very public examples of the frightening way that journalists are being limited in this country.

I fell in love with journalism in high school because everything I wrote served a very specific purpose. I did research and put thought behind every word I wrote because I knew the impact of those words could be important. Journalism combined my passion for writing with two serious responsibilities: to adhere to facts and report honestly to the public.

With each passing day under this administration, I feel those values are being restricted more and more. “Fake news” and “enemy of the people” seem to be used carelessly to characterize journalists and the press.

For an administration who seems to care so much about “free speech” when it expresses its views and faces consequences, I am appalled to see it rush in such haste to suppress and restrict the voices it doesn’t agree with. “Fake news” has now become anything that criticizes the President; the “enemy of the people” has now become anyone who states facts that show him in a poor light.

Journalists put endless time and effort into ensuring accuracy in important information, which millions of Americans rely on daily. The positive effect this has on journalism and the public is dwarfed immediately by harsh and accusatory comments from our President. Narratives like these, where journalists are portrayed as both stupid and the direct antagonist of the public, instantly put trust of the press in doubt. Encroachment on freedom of the press is far from what our country needs right now — let alone a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Journalists are by no means perfect, nor am I — no industry is. But it’s painful to witness the integrity of a profession that I aspire to have endangered by a president and administration who can’t handle criticism.

It is painful, yet motivating.

For me, it was easy to be discouraged by all the negativity and mistrust surrounding the industry I see myself in. But that changed when I saw Fox News support CNN in their lawsuit against the White House.

“Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized,” Fox News President Jay Wallace said. “We do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people.”

In terms of ideology, I frequently disagree with Fox News. However, seeing them support CNN, whose views with which they also differ, gives me hope for the future of journalism. Restriction of the press is not a partisan issue; it’s an issue of freedom. Two news organizations with wildly different political ideologies can come together to defend the free press. And it’s important as journalists not to flounder under this increasingly toxic environment but to stand together and support each other, despite our differing political views.

I’m only a first-year Medill student. I have a lot to learn about journalism and the world in general. But I know enough to know that limiting the voices of the press is a dangerous direction for our country. And it’s possible and extremely crucial for journalists to keep pushing and fighting for freedom of the press and the American people.

Andrea Bian is a Medill freshman. She can be contacted at andreabian2022@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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