It is difficult to pinpoint where the decline of modern journalism began to slide down the perilous chute towards sensationalism and garbage news, but what is certain is that at this current time the industry needs a new start. From what is covered and what is considered to be newsworthy the world has been steered again and again towards increasingly inane and nonsensical material. That which is considered news is easily likened to a mudslinging contest in a grade-school playground, or a smear campaign devised by a high school student to become the most popular. Journalism has become less about real news and more about whatever story attracts readers.
presidential candidate Donald Trump has been seen as a smear campaign in some regards, but
has been used to quite a different purpose to date. Where many individuals thought the
vilification of Trump might have been provided by and masterfully used by the media, it has
instead backfired and allowed the entrepreneur turned presidential hopeful to set his own pace
and use the media to further his own ends. Trump has reveled in the attention, good or bad, and has managed to turn the hatred of so many upon its ear by winning over those who truly believe in his words. The attention given to him, although meant to be cautionary and used as a warning against his otherwise less than acceptable policies, has instead granted him the voice he so badly desired and the exposure that he needed to reach many, many more potential voters.
Trump has effectively sidestepped the more traditional methods of gaining notoriety through his followers by taking to media that is far more accessible and more readily available in this current day to many individuals. He has utilized social media to such an extent that regular television broadcasts have been limited. Networks and stations have been forced to at least make the attempt to keep their viewers informed and keep their ratings at an even keel. So forceful is his presence upon social media that he has used the medium to continue to expand his following, preferring such methods as Vine, YouTube, and especially Twitter (Justice & Stanley, 2016). Thanks to the exposure from the media and the need for other networks to keep up with current events Trump has managed to gain the massive following that has only made his position stronger.
Worse than this however, he is not being held accountable for his words, be they true or false, as he has bypassed the traditional route of giving voice to thoughtful analysts that might otherwise break down his rhetoric and boastful claims and promises. Trump is akin to a steamroller as he continues to pick up pace, using the attention of social media to stay ahead of his competitors and continue his push towards the presidency. If this is the fault of the media it is because those who are responsible have allowed the media to become a highly unregulated system in which, with minimal effort, anyone can begin a landslide of public opinion.
At one point and time the media were able to report, analyze, and cover the news in a
manner that was consistent with the will and desire of the people. News was worth watching in
other words, and could be relied upon to remain a constant source of information, rather than the sensationalist platform it now stands as. Throughout the last few decades media has changed a great deal, adapting to the new developments in technology and its applications, and to the constantly changing world and the manner in which the news is reported. Somewhere along the line the true and honest story of what is happening in the world gave way to the sensationalist and the popular news, stories that are not necessarily important but somehow capture the rapt attention of millions.
In truth Donald Trump was not created by the media (Shafer, 2016), nor was his overwhelming notoriety in any way a product of the several media sources that have locked onto his boisterous campaign. Trump was an icon and a well-known name before the current fiasco that has been called the race for the presidency, and has been a mainstay in American culture for some time. While many would have been unable to tell more about the man than the mere fact that he is one of the richest individuals in the world, media has allowed for far more to be discovered through his ranting and raving on his way to the oval office. The overexposure he is receiving now is more of a masterfully-set plan by which Trump has funneled his own money into the effort of making himself the only real known Republican candidate, as well as the most influential.
In essence it is not the media hyping or using Trump to give itself a kick start or even a
much needed boost. Trump is the one pulling the strings no matter that he keeps a relatively
hands off approach as he continues to make his way around the country. To date he has
contributed roughly 10 million dollars of his own money to advertising, and has in return
received almost two billion dollars in coverage (Silver, 2016). He has successfully
masterminded his campaign in such a way that his competitors don’t have a chance of retaining a headline for their efforts for even a day. Often as not they are relegated to little more than minor blurbs and unknown editorial and gossip columns that are hardly ever read.
Not only is Trump so adept at working the media, he is just as adept at condemning it when networks refuse to cover his debates and appearances in the manner he wishes. Regardless of how he has so easily manipulated his own press, Trump has come to disdain the media almost entirely, going so far as to show intense and utter disrespect towards those who seek to cover not just his portion of the presidential race but that of any other candidate. The manner in which the media responds to Trump is akin to paying attention to a bully in a schoolyard, the more attention he receives, the stronger his campaign becomes. Eventually it is believable that Trump will, if elected, enact changes within the media that will interfere with first amendment rights towards what is considered libelous speech and reporting and what is not.
For a few generations now the media has been slowly slipping off the rails in what it deems as newsworthy, but in covering Trump it has been given little choice and must pick between the lesser of two evils. In ignoring Trump, which would be attempt to lessen his impact on the American public, it would only serve to fuel the increase in social media over which Trump already has a virtual stranglehold. In feeding into his coverage even further, it only boosts his exposure and allows more and more potential voters to see and hear him and his words. There is no correct direction for the media to turn any longer in regards to Trump, as he has made enough skillful moves to corner the media in a way that he can say and do what he wishes and he will still be seen as the best option for president. He has insulated himself from the media even as he has used it to his advantage, and when it becomes convenient he will discard it in favor of other media that he can better manipulate.
If there is any true issue with journalism in the present day, as highlighted by the Trump phenomenon, it is that the age of digital media has seriously weakened the framework of its ethical boundaries. At one point in time journalism was akin to the gates that stood between the wider world and the general public. Journalists were the gatekeepers that harbored the responsibility of what the public saw and in what light such information was presented. In reporting the news and happenings both local and far off it was the task of the journalist to look at each and every piece of news with an eye that was both un-biased and ethically sound. To date that framework of truth and hard-hitting journalism has given itself up to accommodate for the vast change in media and its fading control over what is considered newsworthy.
The fall of journalistic ethics has caused a mess of such proportions that remaining fair and impartial has to this date given way to constant, subjective updates that sacrifice accuracy for the need-to-know mentality that is rampant within the general public. Individuals and society at large are far more concerned with the here and now than they are with the truth and the impartiality that at one point was among the core values that journalism was built upon. If one can access sound bites rather than the lengthy, informational articles that were once so sought after then it is considered all the better as many people only seek the gist of the article, not the text in its entirety. Fast and easy has in a sense replaced the accurate and methodical, and Donald Trump has cashed in upon this fact in a way that was not expected.
A businessman first and foremost, Trump is not above finding the quickest and most
affordable manner in which to turn his investment into profit. It is the nature of the man as it has
been seen to do much with little, and with the media he has accomplished this in a relatively
short time (Schlesinger, 2016). The media, which according to the ethics and morality it was based upon so long ago, should rightly be outraged at being used in such a manner, but instead
has opted to ride out the storm that is Trump. The old adage that it is better to be the right hand of the devil than in his path seems to apply as the media, berated and denounced as they are by Trump, continue to push forth, weathering the constant insults and threats to their first amendment rights that are continually offered.
On one hand they are being used in a manner to further the purpose of one man, while on the other they are still able to bring their own messages across. The major issue in this is that it comes back to impartiality and ethical quandaries that have long since become theoretical questions that the hard-hitting, up to date media no longer has time to contemplate (Ward, 2015). In order to keep up with what is happening in the world the media has been forced to sacrifice their ethics and morality, hiding it behind the justification that they must at times sacrifice integrity for the sake of their viewers. Not only is this a weak attempt to justify the constant erosion of journalistic ethics, but it is a method that individuals such as Donald Trump see as an advantage. Such a lack of ethics allows Trump to work the media into a frenzy with a few choice words and a display that, without media, would seem like the rambling of an eccentric millionaire and little else.
Both the media and Trump have been highly successful in the past in their respective fields. In this current date however modern day journalism has taken a backseat to popular, sensationalist media that is more adept at invoking emotion and reaction than any true thought or introspection. There is no doubt that a reboot to journalism would be beneficial as it would allow the profession a chance to return to the more humble and honest roots from which it began. In the current age many see journalism as an almost outdated concept, preferring the news to be quick and to the point. Style has all but replaced substance in this current day, replacing true and honest context with flashy blurbs that fit the average attention span.
Justice, B. & Stanley, J. (2016). Teaching in the Time of Trump. Social Education, 80(1): 36-41.
Schlesinger, R. (2016). Make the Media Great Again. U.S. News. Retrieved from
Shafer, J. (2016). Did the Media Create Trump? Politico Magazine. Retrieved from
Silver, N. (2016). How Trump Hacked the Media. FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved from
Ward, S.J.A. (2015). Why Journalism Ethics Need a Radical Reboot. National Journalism
Review. Retrieved from