The Optimist’s Editorial Board has spent a lot of time considering? exactly how we should address the upcoming presidential election. Members of the board have taken on more direct issues in personal columns over the last several weeks. As a group, we have wrestled with whether we could offer our support and endorsement of a candidate.
Though the editorial board did not reach a consensus on an endorsement of a particular candidate, we can and do fully endorse the right and necessity of the press in a democratic nation.
If we had decided to endorse one of the major party candidates, some readers might have said we shouldn’t be allowed to express such a controversial opinion, or that we don’t know enough to make an informed decision. We’d be called too liberal or too conservative. People might even ask us what Bible we were reading.
Yet, these potential criticisms were not what deterred us from backing one of the major party candidates. Rather lack of consensus, which we, as an Editorial Board value, led us to share our views individually.
This election cycle – wrought with accusations of sexual assault, lying, harmful rhetoric toward women, people of different races and religious backgrounds – is a breeding ground for hot button issues to ignite a new Facebook argument. Our chief concern lies with the attempts to disqualify the media and its critical function in our society.
The most recent noise being made in Trumpland is talk of a media-rigged election – you’ve heard it all before, the “liberal media” with their “leftist agenda” for “Crooked Hillary.” Trump’s whole campaign carries with it ultimate distrust of anything or anyone that has ever set foot in a newsroom.
And before you run off and throw The Optimist on the pile of liberal publications biased against Donald Trump, you need to understand a few things when thinking about the media.
- Everyone brings their own biases to the table.
- The press is necessary for the maintenance of democracy. It exists to help us sort through the messes we’d otherwise be navigating on our own.
First, Everyone has biases. Yep, even journalists. Even students who work at the ACU newspaper. Even you. We are all approaching the information handed to us by filtering it through our own personal narratives, and often these things are not even realized or spoken out loud. We are influenced deeply by our upbringings, our geographical surroundings, our communities, religious systems of belief and the cultures in which we are embedded. We read things a certain way because of these factors. We write things a certain way because of it.
There is a difference between news content where objectivity ought to be the goal and editorial content where acknowledgement of bias and individual expression of ideas is not only welcome but encouraged.
When biases are acknowledged, it becomes easier to see from another’s perspective, appreciate a good argument, and gain something from a piece of writing even if you do not agree with the author.
Second, the press will never be the end of America as we know it. They will just be the ones to tell you about it when it happens.
Many Americans vocally distrust the media and decry journalism as dead, but it isn’t and if it were to be eliminated, that reality is far more dangerous. Even when those in the media do their job badly, they are still entitled to do it. If we don’t protect the worst performances, we risk losing the best performances. We cannot simply stop pursuing truth, quit seeking out new knowledge, or abandon the hard conversations surrounding the future of our country.
More than commentary on the state of politics in America, the press has existed to tell stories of the people and world around us for the people and world around us. It hasn’t been perfectly executed over the centuries, but without it, we are left to our own devices. Over time, chaos ensues.
In a recent Washington Post column, writer Chris Cizzilla said, “I have no illusion that people are going to suddenly like the media any time soon. But, there’s a big difference between liking the media (or agreeing with the media) and believing they are a necessary part of a healthy and functioning democracy… A country without any independent arbiters of facts and truth is a place in which the possibility of civil discourse is impossible.”
As a group of students committed to learning our craft, we are entering into a long line of people trying to figure stuff out and tell people what’s going on. We read, we argue, we don’t agree on who we are voting for on Nov. 8, but we will leave you with one thought. To put a person in the White House who dismisses the media would violate the very principle on which our country is built: the belief that words have power.