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American Journalism and The Problems It Faces

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Although many elements in the American world of journalism has stayed the same over the years, a dawning feeling that revolutionary changes are hovering above the American society is extensively indicated across the journalism practices adopted within the country. This paper will delve into the meaning of American journalism in our current society by analyzing what the founders anticipated the role of the press to be, by discovering if the right-wing media or the left-wing media is more honest, by comparing and contrasting broadcast media and print media and how each of them covered the 2016 presidential election, by examining the role played by internet media in the 2016 election, and by demonstrating the differences between American journalism and Finnish journalism, which is claimed to be the where journalism is most active as of today.

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A free press is one of the indispensable columns of a representative government. Freedom of Press, written as Amendment I in the first 10 amendments from the Bill of Rights, states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (Madison, 1789). These short, but concise forty-five words is written by the founding fathers of the United States in an aim to safeguard free speech and free press within the United States; without the existence of the first amendment, United States would have had a much distinctive society than it does today. However, American journalism as the founding fathers would have anticipated it is crumbling down as Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, is labelling tenable news sources as fake news, and warning journalists and those who want the truth to get out with lawsuits and legal action (Johnson, 2018). Not only is the president being inconsiderate of the very rights that were granted by the founding fathers, but he is actively attacking one of the pillars of democracy that helps it to stay the way it is.

Mostly, the first amendment signifies that the government doesn’t have the right to place someone in penitentiary, punish them by making them pay a sum of money, or urge lawsuits on them, as the current president is attempting to do with journalists right now. His actions are violating the First Amendment, and the society is at a huge loss if journalists aren’t allowed to publish their news stories as they perceive them. Journalists aren’t only being threatened, but they are actually being stopped and searched at US borders, and some journalists have been recently arrested for “covering protests at the inauguration and at Standing Rock” (D’Arcy, 2017). If these arrests continue to increase in number, the United States might be leading itself to the scenario demonstrated in the book 1984 by George Orwell.

In the society created by Orwell in his infamous book, individuality is looked down upon, having thoughts or opinions aren’t allowed, and the way the government makes sure that people are lacking individuality is through telescreens and the thought police; Orwell dubbed this society he created Oceania, and in Oceania, there are newspapers and television channels (Orwell, 1949). What is so manipulative about the media within Oceania is how prior newspapers and books are altered to the government’s desire while the originals get destroyed, so the government can enforce its own state of mind on the society, and have the society doubt themselves and their own memory through destroying original versions of events. The government would utilize the means of a memory hole, a machine that is used to change or destroy enmeshing and ignominious documents that might lead to society questioning the credibility of the government.

Even though Orwell’s Oceania would be an extreme, it does provide insight to its readers of the horrors that would take place if a society is stripped from its freedom of speech and freedom of press. Society needs to come to the realization that the freedom of speech and freedom of press go hand in hand, and as the freedom of press falls under an increasing threat, so does the freedom of speech for the rest of the society. Freedom of press not only ensures that society is aware of what’s going on around the world and around them, but it also allows society to speak out publicly and have a stance against political opinions if they need to. As of today, American journalism is so divided due to politics, setting media apart as those supported by the right-wing media and left-wing media. However, it’s hard to truly define the line that sets these two political supporters apart; it’s a very subjective matter. But what is worrisome is that one can tune in on Fox News and see the news in one light, while when tuning in on CNN, the news is reported entirely different. This pushes society to choose a side almost, choose the news source they want to believe, but it’s worrisome that there is contradictory news of the same event being broadcasted at the same time.

The underlying dissimilarities between left-wing and right-wing medias focus on the freedom of persons versus the power government exercises on the society. While one centers on minimizing the governmental involvement in people’s lives, the other wishes to have government more involved in people’s lives. American journalism has deteriorated to the right-wing media and the left-wing media attacking one another, rather than publishing news as they should, and informing their readers and watchers. For instance, recently there has been national discussion of Starbucks, and how some of their stores are seen as discriminatory because they have been calling the police on African-American customers that aren’t purchasing anything but that are staying in the coffee restaurant (Younes, 2018). Starbucks is a location where many people go to use the free Wi-Fi services that the company so actively promotes, and I myself have seen numerous times how people don’t necessarily have to buy anything to stay in any Starbucks stores, so the situation is definitely controversial and not aligned with how Starbucks usually represent themselves. However, it is being covered so differently, and from so many varying angles.

For instance, a news source that is supporting the left-wing media explains how the right-wing media is supporting Bryan Sharpe, an individual who went to Starbucks, and said that since they’re racist, and since he is black, he can get a free coffee as Starbucks is promoting on their social media accounts. There was no such promotion by Starbucks, but the worker in Starbucks believed Sharpe and handed him his coffee, and Sharpe was recording the incident the entire time, which he shared with the news after. While the right-wing media sees Sharpe as a “comedian” and perceives his video as a prank video, the left-wing media sees Sharpe as a mean person who is trolling Starbucks during their dilemma (Wright, 2018). What should be focused on here is how people are inclined to watch news based on their beliefs, because there are such news sources. News are increasingly lacking integrity, and focusing on the political aspects of events rather than actually publishing news. People are being pulled to news sources that align with their own beliefs; if someone is a Democrat and a liberal, they might be watching very different channels than their Republican counterparts. There is very clear news-bias within the society, which implicates how society is a part of the very problem plaguing them.

The 2016 presidential election was one for the history books, as the nation was really unaware of who will be their new president. Donald Trump, someone who is so outspoken and not always in a positive way, came to be the 45th president. The presidential election was covered entirely different by the right-wing media and the left-wing media. Much prior to Donald Trump proclaiming he was running for presidency, the right-wing media had already gotten accustomed to being disdained by the left-wing media for their opinions. The widespread demeanor of the left-wing media was that as long as the right-wing media would disagree with them they will be deemed as a chauvinist, supremacist, and overall prejudiced (Guo, 2017). The right-wing media focused on covering Trump’s embarrassing moments and his failures to discourage citizens from voting for him.

For instance, one would turn on the news and see how the way Trump talks to his daughter gets scrutinized, how his past life is shown in an attempt to prove him as unreliable, and how his curse words and the way he carries himself is critiqued. However, the right-wing media wasn’t doing anything too differently either. The right-wing media would focus on Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, and how she breached data and doesn’t deserve to even be a presidential candidate. Even after Trump became president, the right-wing media didn’t let go of Clinton’s e-mail scandal, and it is a discussion that still continues to our current day, where Clinton’s scandals from the past are catching up to her now due to the determination of the right-wing media to destroy the left-wing media’s credibility (Singman, 2017). As can be seen, American journalism has degraded itself to covering the attack of right-wing media against left-wing media, and vice versa; it’s hard to find real news anymore.

What has revolutionized American journalism is the establishment of Internet media. Prior to Internet media, news only was broadcasted on the television and radios, and printed on magazines and newspapers. Perhaps, some people who were well connected could have obtained their news by word of mouth. However, thanks to Internet media, people don’t need to rely on news sources they don’t trust, and can thoroughly research for themselves to find the truth of a matter. Social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter have proven beneficial in spreading news that might have never been known of otherwise. Whenever a terrorist attack takes place, a bombing takes place, a school shooting, or any other horrible and unfortunate situation, one can easily depend on these social media networks and their users to spread the news almost immediately. The Internet media has forced businesses and prominent public figures to be more aware of their actions, and think twice prior to doing something embarrassing. Individuals can easily ruin reputations, or make them, through their commentary, complaints, and concerns which they can freely express through social media networks.

One of the primary reasons as to why Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election is the Internet media. Rather than relying on how the various news sources were going to portray him to the people he was trying to get votes from, Trump took to Twitter to freely express his opinions, and let citizens know of what he really wants to accomplish as a President, and who he is against. However, Trump did have some instances of publishing Tweets that damaged his reputation, and made people think twice about voting for him, but overall the society loved the honesty and no-filter attitude of Trump (Alang, 2016). Trump also saved millions of dollars in free advertisement for his campaign through effective promotion of himself. Trump’s actions caught all the news sources by surprise, and rather than focusing on the presidential election itself, news sources began to cover how Trump is heading to Twitter to strengthen his possibility of becoming a President. It was as if Trump was getting double the coverage and double the advertisement without a spending a single dime.

While Hillary Clinton spent approximately 1,184.1 million on her presidential campaign, Trump only spent 616.5 million on his campaign, almost as half of the spending done by Clinton (Allison, Rojanasakul, Harris & Sam, 2016). The low amount of spending Trump has done for his campaign compared to Clinton’s spending, despite his numerous trips all around the country in a private jet and extensive hotel stays, goes on to show how powerful Internet media is. However, Internet media is a platform anyone has access to, so through the usage of Internet media many people can get influenced by ungrounded news. For example, Facebook uses an algorithm that doesn’t filter out fake news, and any news that are viewed the most are placed on top of a “Trending Now” list which promotes the fake news even more elaborately (van Es, 2017). For Internet media to be fully integrated into the current society, it needs an effective measuring system or detection system that filters out news that would otherwise distract the public attention from what’s truly going on. Many news sources are expanding their companies and businesses to include an online website or application where they can also share and deliver news from there. Social media networks should be able to differentiate unreliable news sources from credible news sources.

Even though many countries are envious of United States, and the freedoms they offer, most don’t realize there are other nations out there with better journalism systems, where journalists don’t get threatened by their own president. Finland, for example, is a nation that repeatedly gets chosen as the top-rated nation for press freedom (Weaver, 2016). The instance that a Finnish journalist was assailed in the month of April in 2016, it was what headlined the news for numerous weeks; the Finnish society sees such an act as a direct violation of the free and honorable journalism that is granted to journalists within their country (Pisker, 2016). Freedom of press and freedom of speech is powerfully enforced by the Constitution in Finland, in addition to numerous laws and policies that support this freedom. The government in Finland focuses on building trust with their citizens, and maintaining it, which they accomplish through making all governmental documents public, and ensuring there is a minimal level of corruption.

One could wonder how both United States and Finland have freedom of speech and press, but that Finland is the one that is recognized and distinguished as the utopia for journalists. Finland aims to keep a minimal level of corruption within their political proceedings. Although there are several political parties in Finland, as in United States, there aren’t any extremists trying to shove each political party’s values onto others. More importantly, unlike United States, Finland makes majority of their governmental documents public, in an aim to build trust and credibility with its citizens, and prove themselves as a transparent government that the Finnish citizens or journalists need to be threatened by. Through their aim in creating a transparent community that is full of trust, Finland also ensures low levels of crime and drama, which gives very little to make news about. However, whenever there is an incident, Finnish journalists are encouraged to fully express what happened in the news in their own perception without having to worry about getting lawsuits from the president of the country.

Although the Constitution should be questioning Trump’s actions and be against them since they are in violation of the first amendment, there hasn’t been anything done about it so far, and one can imagine how journalists are unsure of reporting dangerous or controversial stories and news without the worry of getting legally fined. For United States to be even remotely close to the level of freedom of press Finland has, one must first eliminate the right-wing and left-wing concept from the society. Politics is way too ingrained in the media, and every piece of news comes along with political commentary that is mostly unnecessary. The existence of right-wing and left-wing media is primarily due to the high-level of corruption within the American government. It is shocking that Hillary Clinton can expose confidential and governmental documents in her personal e-mails, and it is surprising that Donald Trump, someone with a negative record with instances of bankruptcies and disrespectful encounters with women, can become the 45th president of the United States. One shouldn’t forget that there is a voting system within United States, and as citizens of the country, they are a large part of the problem that is plaguing them. American people need to be more aware of who they’re electing into office, and the political parties themselves shouldn’t place unqualified candidates for a presidential election. Thus, to even start addressing the problems within American journalism, the corruption of politics must be thoroughly minimized or even eliminated, because politics is deeply implemented in the current society, as it has been from the beginnings of the United States.

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As can be seen, American journalism has gone through a rollercoaster of a journey. Even though the founding fathers of the United States had clearly established regulations of freedom of press and freedom of speech, the rights of journalists and news sources have been increasingly threatened by the current presidency and current government. Moreover, American journalism has gone through a revolution with the integration of Internet media in the everyday lives of society. Although the current president is someone to be wary of when it comes to freedom of speech, it’s clever and interesting how he effectively utilized Internet media to pave a pathway for him to win the 2016 presidential election. Internet media has grown to such a degree, which Trump used to his advantage, that people can be lenient to depending on news from Internet media more than the traditional means of media. Last, but not least, by thoroughly analyzing Finland’s journalism system, one can easily come to the conclusion that through the maintenance of transparency and trust, Finland minimizes the corruption levels within their government which paves a pathway for them to provide a complete freedom of speech and press to all its citizens and journalists. Finland, although considerably smaller than the United States, provides insight as to how the United States should approach the problem within American journalism today.

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