Legitimate news outlets deserve public’s trust
Most universities are melting pots. Students are packed together in the same dorms and classrooms, and each carries with them different opinions.
But one prevalent belief that seems to be invading campuses across the country is that students can’t trust the media.
Recently, a Gallup national survey found that a majority of college students, 59 percent, have little or no trust in the press to report news fairly and accurately.
These numbers are similar to adults. In a poll conducted last fall, only 40 percent of U.S. adults said they had a great deal or fair amount of trust in the accurate reporting of the news.
Now, I’m definitely a little biased as a member of the media, but those numbers just don’t seem right to me.
The press is an industry so important in America that it was given its own allotment in the Constitution. It is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment, right next to the freedoms of religion and speech.
The founding fathers knew, even before major newspapers, radio, television and computers came along, that the abilities of the press — to act as informants, whistleblowers and guardians — was something that had to be protected.
In the early 1900s, Ida B. Tarbell and other muckrackers went undercover to expose corruption in some of the country’s biggest corporations. Her work led to the breakup of the Standard Oil Company, which she exposed as an illegal monopoly.
Upton Sinclair’s undercover work in the meat packing industry led to the passage of the Safe Food and Drug Act of 1906.
In the 1960s, when the U.S. government tried to paint a rosy picture of the war in Vietnam, it was the reporters on the ground who gave the American people the first real look at the atrocities of war.
And in the 1970s, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward uncovered a series of crimes and political “dirty tricks,” now known as the Watergate scandal, which led to the indictments of 40 White House officials and the eventual resignation of former President Richard Nixon.
Even as recently as 2013, journalists have played a major role in informing the public of political cover-ups and scandals. After all, no one would know anything about Edward Snowden if The Washington Post and The Guardian hadn’t relied on the word of a confidential source and released NSA surveillance secrets to the public.
This is what journalists do. They do not lie and scheme and plot to trick the public with outlandish stories. They dig and they question and they uncover until they find the things that really matter. Then they tell the world.
Of course, there are some people who have strayed from journalistic integrity. Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, Janet Cooke — these are the tainted few who soil the work of the majority.
But most journalists live by a very strict code of ethics. I can attest that it is something that is reinforced again and again from the very first class a student takes in pursuit of this career.
There are those who think getting news from unofficial social media sources is the way to go. But these individuals aren’t held to the same ethical standards. They don’t have the same resources, the same obligations, as journalists working for legitimate news organizations. There is no oversight to ensure their accuracy.
Not all news organizations are perfect. Journalists make mistakes. They jump the gun. They lose sight of their morals.
But, despite its flaws, I think journalism is a noble profession. It shines a light on the unseen. It uncovers injustices. It gives a voice to those who would otherwise never be heard.
That’s not something just anyone with a Twitter account or a Facebook page can do.
Deanna Ferrante is a digital producer with the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @deannaferrante or email her at DeannaF@centralfloridafuture.com.