February has been a straining month on the relationship between President Donald Trump and the nation’s news outlets. Several incidents have contributed to apprehension on the president’s stand on the First Amendment right of freedom of the press.
These incidents, in addition to creating tension, have brought to light an important need to distinguish between “fake news” and “biased news” as well as considering why long credited news sources are coming under scrutiny.
“There’s always been a disconnect between news and politics because both have such different goals but are still trying to please the public in one way or another,” Mara Johnston, freshman communicative disorders major, said. “It’s definitely becoming more and more prominent nowadays.”
The first event that has brought the contention back to the forefront was President Trump’s “Sweden statement” on Feb. 18.
During a rally in Florida, the president said, “You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden.” The comment came alongside references to “what’s happening in Germany.” Many were confused with what the president was referring to, assuming he was referencing some nonexistent terrorist attack.
Trump later tweeted that his statement “was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.”
Though terrorist attacks have occurred in many of the countries referenced by Trump during the rally, Sweden had not experienced any at that point in time, causing confusion among many.
That weekend, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders clarified that Trump was “talking about rising crime and recent incidents in general and not referring to a specific incident.”
Another batch of outraged news came on Feb. 24, when the White House did not invite certain news outlets to attend a news briefing.
Among those excluded from attendance were CNN, the New York Times, the Huffington Post and the Los Angeles Times.
In response, the Associated Press and Times boycotted the briefing.
The previous week, President Trump tweeted that “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @CNN, @NBCNews and many more) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people!”
The statement has drawn attention to Trump’s definition of “fake news.”
Alongside the raging internet phenomenon of publishing unfounded stories portrayed as news, the president’s definition itself seems unfounded, calling for a delineation between “fake news” and “biased news.”
“All news is biased, in my opinion,” Johnston said. “Whoever writes it brings in their own bias. Fake news is just biased taken to extreme, I think. You should attempt to leave your biases at the door. Fake news allows that bias to take over.”
Because it is difficult to distinguish between fake news and biased news, Johnston recommends reading news from a cross section of sources. She tries to read from all “big newspapers,” from CNN to Fox News.
While Johnston believes media outlets have the freedom to publish their viewpoints, she thinks they have an obligation to report facts. However, the facts they choose to include often reveal bias.
“As long as it’s true, they can put down whatever they want,” Johnston said. “With any news, they always focus on the one negative thing when there’s so many other things going on.”