As a journalism major who is considering a career in media, I am extremely perplexed by the news outlets of my generation. I am very disappointed by the current media outlets, which every day are becoming less professional and more comical. Media these days are so focused on entertainment value that they don’t focus on what is truly the essence of reporting: doing justice to the story.
Currently, my favorite way to learn about America is by watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. A British man with a posh accent and an HBO show has taught me more about America then any other person currently on television, American or otherwise. The fact that I trust a comedic news show over actual news programming is quite alarming.
The need for media ratings and news programming that has an “entertainment value” has led the media to give more attention to one man than any other this election season: Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is an entertainer at heart. He’s not a politician or someone who has experience dealing with policy. He is someone who lives for the spotlight. And contrary to popular belief, he is not stupid.
With media fighting in a vicious ratings battle, giving coverage to Donald Trump is too easy. He says racist, offensive and crazy things in order to draw in media attention. Trump understands the need for ratings and entertainment. He understands that in a world where news outlets have to compete with thousands of other channels, he has to be so ludicrous that the line between reality television and the actual reality is blurred in order to get air time.
In my History of American Journalism class that I took with professor Kimberly Voss last semester, we learned about the great reporters who used to give us our news. They gave factual, thoroughly researched reports and displayed the highest ethical caliber. Walter Cronkite was called “the most trusted man” in America and led the country through very dark times when people mistrusted the government and felt scared for the nation’s future during the Vietnam War. He held his government accountable for its failures during the war and showed the American people exactly what was happening overseas. Cronkite wasn’t trying to entertain the American people because he knew that news was too important to be trivialized. He knew that he had to be straightforward and honest with his viewers.
Now look at what has happened to America and the American people. The media’s quest to get ratings has created a monster. Trump is now beating Hillary Clinton in the new national polls. His face and his hateful rhetoric are now being broadcast daily. He is being so incorporated into the lives of Americans that they are actually starting to buy into his divisive rhetoric.
Giving so much airtime and media coverage to such a dangerous man is shameful. What happened to ethics in journalism? What happened to honor? What happened to the reporters of yesterday like Edward Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein?
Our news media’s need for entertainment has become dangerous. If Donald Trump gets elected and our country crumbles, then the leaders of the news media will be standing in the middle of the chaos, shaking their heads, and saying “What have we done?”
Jillian James is the Opinions Editor of the Central Florida Future. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org