Posts Tagged ‘Donald Trump’

Seek truth without abuse

The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, who has been subjected to abuse online for her reporting. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/CC)

Over the last couple of days, Laura Kuenssberg has received attention for something that should not be a norm.

Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor who is the primary point person for the organization when it comes to British politics, was reported to be accompanied by a security guard as she covered the conference for the Labour Party, the opposition in Britain’s House of Commons.

Kuenssberg had been subjected to abuse online for her reporting, and prominent names in the Labour Party have called on its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to condemn it.

While the report of Kuenssberg being accompanied by a security guard has not officially been confirmed, it is not the first notable instance of security being needed for attacks against female journalists. When she covered President Trump’s campaign, NBC News reporter Katy Tur had received protection from the US Secret Service during a series of personal attacks. Trump has continued to criticize journalists, notably saying recently that journalists do not “like our country.”

Journalism is a fundamental part of the principles of democracy, and the ability for journalists to hold those in power to account without restrictions or repercussions is quintessential to upholding those principles. Any attack against a journalist, irrespective of medium, impedes their ability to serve the public. Further, an attack on journalists is not just an attack on the profession itself, but an attack on democracy.

Women’s contributions to journalism are essential for the profession to survive, and they are contributions that should not be taken for granted. This egregious abuse directed at Kuenssberg and other journalists, be it covering politics, culture, sports, economics, or other beats, should not be tolerated. No journalist should be subjected to it, and as Gaby Hinsliff, a former political editor of the British newspaper The Observer put it, it has no place in a democracy.

The ideas of women in journalism is something that should be championed, not criticized. I support Kuenssberg and the work of female journalists around the world who inform, engage and educate. They must be able to serve the public without restrictions or abuse, and do what is at the core of SPJ’s Code of Ethics – seek truth and report it.

I support them, and quite frankly, so should you.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

An ethical education

President Trump will not change his behavior towards the media. It is down to us to educate the public about the importance of journalism. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

“I don’t know what to make of the news. But I promise we will cover it with fairness and without fear. We work for America.”

That is how Scott Simon, the longtime NPR correspondent and host of Weekend Edition Saturday, put it on Twitter at the end of a day where the relationship between the media and President Donald Trump was a lead story, coming off of a press conference that had been considered to be combative.

The press conference took place days after the attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, amidst criticism of conflicting statements on the attacks from The White House.

Hours before that press conference, Trump had retweeted a tweet depicting a CNN journalist being run over by a train. The tweet has since been deleted.

Criticism of the media by Trump is not new, as he has utilized Twitter to criticize the media on multiple occasions. Indeed, as CNN’s Brian Stelter wrote in last night’s Reliable Sources newsletter, Trump was reported to be furious about media coverage of events Monday evening.

It has been clear for sometime that Trump’s behavior towards the media will not change, as my SPJ colleague, Ethics Committee chair Andrew Seaman wrote last month (for the record, I also serve on the Committee). As a result, the focus within the industry must shift towards educating the American people on the importance of journalism and its role in civic life, instead of responding to Trump’s criticism.

This education is necessary, but it is also quintessential in an age where Americans increasingly get their news online and on social media. New data from the Pew Research Center shows that roughly 9 out of 10 Americans get their news online, and social media is at the core of online news consumption.

Changes on attitudes towards the media will not change overnight, and it will take some time as well as many conversations, both internally and externally, to have an impact on the relationship with journalists and their audiences as the digital age.

Yet, SPJ’s Code of Ethics provides some ideas on how journalists can start this education with their audiences now. That said, here are some tips on how to best go about it.

  • Be honest with your audience. Whether it is uncertainty about a piece of information, or making a correction, tell them about it and explain why you did what you did.
  • It’s better to be right than first. Twitter and the web is seen as a race to be the first person with the story, but it isn’t. Take the time to get everything right before you hit publish.
  • Tell them about it. When you’re making a correction or decide to delay running with a story, have a conversation with your audience as to why this is so. An honest journalist is a credible journalist.
  • Cite early and often. Cite any reports from any organizations as you report a story. Corroborate any reports.
  • Verify everything. It’s so nice it’s worth saying twice! As the Code says, neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy, so take the time to ensure everything is correct in your story. Remember – it is better to be right than first.

We are truth seekers – and in the digital age, the truth is more important than ever. We owe it to ourselves to remember the importance of ethics, to talk about ethics and to not be afraid to do the most important tasks of all as journalists – informing, educating and engaging our audience.

As Simon said, we work for America – and it is for them, and no one else, that we get up each day, sit down, and do what journalists set out to do – seek truth and report it.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Just click subscribe

Remarks by President Trump have raised questions on the roles of journalists. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

In New York, in the lobby of the hall at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University that bears his name, sits a plaque of a quote recorded in 1904 by the newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. It says: “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together.”

Its beginning is succinct, and is representative of American journalism’s role in a functioning democracy.

President Trump has brought the role of journalists and the media into question. Though conflict between politicians and the media is the globally established norm, journalism is entering new territory, as day after day the words fake news and post-truth become part of the English lexicon, either in print, in broadcast, or online.

Fake news, whether disagreeing with the content or publisher of an article, drives a negative connotation to those working in the industry. It also casts fear, doubt and anxiety among new career and student journalists. The events of the past week have added to that angst, from a press conference at the White House and interviews on Trump’s policies here and abroad with key advisers, to Trump’s tweets.

Journalists are synonymous with the foundations of democracy. The First Amendment is at the heart of this foundation. We are not enemies, we are citizens exactly like each ordinary citizen who gets up every day and do what they need to do. We enter this industry not to seek fame or fortune, but to benefit the common good by informing, engaging and stimulating our communities, our country and our world.

NPR host Steve Inskeep put it like this on Twitter.

We as journalists have a responsibility to ensure that the rights given to our fellow citizens continue – that the guaranteed freedom of the press does not fall dormant.

There’s a simple way to do that. Encourage your friends to subscribe to get a digital subscription of a newspaper, donate to your public TV or radio station, or buy a newspaper to have with a cup of morning coffee. You do it too.

Along the way, encourage the public to become SPJ supporters and show their support for quality journalism.

It may not be much, but the investment matters. The public isn’t investing in a brand or an organization when they subscribe – instead, they’re investing in their neighbors, classmates, colleagues, friends, spouses or family members. They’re also investing in their fellow citizens who get up and go to work knowing the only thing journalists answer to is truth.

I believe that if something is worth doing, you do it well. Good, ethical journalism cannot happen without members of the public. They call on us to seek truth and report it, to help them make sense of the world, and to help in their daily lives.

After all, as the famous editor C.P. Scott once said: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.”

So this holiday weekend, take some time and illuminate the world for your fellow citizens. Encourage them to just click subscribe.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


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