Over my spring break college tours trip in the east coast, I have been searching for schools in New York, DC, and Boston areas. In Washington DC, I had the opportunity to attend an especially stimulating conference at The George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. The conference, Whose Right? Where Trump is Taking the Conservative Media, included a diverse panel of journalists affiliated with conservative media outlets. The panelists were:
Amber Athey, White House correspondent, The Daily Caller
Bob Garfield, “On the Media” co-host, WNYC
Bill Kristol, founder and former editor-at-large, The Weekly Standard
Jennifer Rubin, opinion writer, The Washington Post; contributor, MSNBC
Frank Sesno, director, GW School of Media & Public Affairs (moderator)
Kara Zupkus, president, GW Young America’s Foundation
While the panelists were associated with mostly conservative media, the opinions of each member varied tremendously. For example, their opinions on the right leaning media’s friendliness to Trump and how the future of Trumpism influences 2020 politics and the future of reporting, sparked contentious debate. Bob Garfield not only laments, but fears the downward spiraling politics and media for this new generation. Amber Athey on the other hand, showed little concern for the future defending her outlet, the Daily Caller; her remarks suggest that her online portal reports honestly with less bias than most media (which I find to be completely false).
The arguments between Mrs. Athey and Mr. Garfield were joined by Jennifer Reuben, a Washington Post writer who identifies herself with the center-right. Mrs. Reuben stated that the Post encompasses most political views and from various angles, providing well rounded content and contesting Mrs. Athey’s rhetoric. Oftentimes, Fox News was bashed by most of the panelists for it’s poor reporting and obvious bias toward Trump.
As an teenager who often reads the Times, The Post, or scrolls through Instagram or Twitter to consume newsfeed, listening to conservatives answer the question of how the media has transformed since 2015 to surround Trump vastly broadened my perspective.
What I found most interesting was the final question of Mr. Senso, the conference moderator. He asked about the future of media and politics in regards to having concern for the new generation of leaders, politicians, and citizens. The answer of Mr. Garfield specifically resonated with me: he conveyed to us that while he is devastated over what American politics has become, he fears the future of the media and partisan politics in the United States. In order to stitch this widening divide that continues to polarize our nation, he started “The Purple Project.” An organization like this one, working to unify society through promoting true democracy and honest politics, is essential to reintegrate integrity into the press and American government.
Needless to say, attending a conference like this one was incredibly eye opening. Meeting media professionals and becoming familiar with their opinions, some of which opposed my own, enabled me to explore a new array of political ideas and understand the standpoint of conservative media outlets. Despite the growing distrust and hatred for the press that we see today, it is important to recognize their point of view. We must acknowledge that the negative stigma surrounding conservative media is totally false: when one thinks of conservative media, they often think of Fox News, and this is anything but correct. Many (not all) right leaning publications and channels who are often associated with the exaggerated Fox News reports, actually condemn them for blurring the line between factual news and opinion commentary. Fox News’ reports of hard news stories are oftentimes skewed in favour of Trump’s policies or the Republican party as a whole. This blatant attempt to boost the reputation of the right makes reporting almost into reality television. And since Fox serves as the largest conservative media outlet today, many other conservative publications are put in the corner of shame with Fox’s “fake news.” In effect, these smaller media outlets receive a similar label to Fox News and their credibility depreciates in the eyes of the public.
By discrediting the media as a whole, we also discredit a whole sect of important people who are responsible for delivering accurate news to not just the American people, but the rest of the world. Continuing to slander the press for their “fake news” and making these ridiculous generalizations will only hinder America’s future. This new generation of future leaders and voters must dig deeper into the information they obtain and analyze it with critical minds. We cannot continue to accuse the “conservative” or “liberal” media– this is simply a distraction to blind the American people from what is truly problematic. In reality, bias will always be present. But, it is our duty to distinguish between what is blamed and what really continues to plague our society. Integrity is the only answer.