Picture by Bulldog Photo Editor Kyle Eaton
The current times are turbulent for Americans, students, and journalists given a combination of political and health disasters. Months of the former president’s inflammatory rhetoric culminated in a historic storming of the Capitol. Despite most of us keeping physically healthy, university students are mentally struggling as the global pandemic passes its first anniversary. Many feel significant pressure regarding their educational progress and personal finances, balancing unexpected living situations with all-online courses. As I begin my second semester of leading the Bulldog, I find myself reflecting on yet a third identity—that of the student journalist.
Whatever their intentions, news organizations are failing in the eyes of at least half the country. Even those satisfied with their media consumption are largely-selective, avoiding anything that might question their beliefs. There are many causes of this, one being Mr. Trump’s years of lambasting journalists and denying elementary facts. Yet the country’s discontent with national media cannot be attributed solely to the 45th president. It existed well before he was a blip in the 2016 presidential race.
External factors beyond the scope of this letter do not excuse the media’s prioritization of traffic over balance. That a newspaper either publishes “fake news” or impeccable narratives is a false dichotomy. An article can say nothing technically incorrect while slanting the news and omitting relevant information. Many editors have seemingly abandoned the goal of objectivity, seeing greater profit in appealing to their readerships. The average consumer would rather pay to have their views confirmed than challenged.
Unfortunately, while fair and accurate journalism is not incentivized by the market, it is vital for a functioning democracy. Justifying his unwavering faith in popular government, Thomas Jefferson argued that an educated public would be equipped to hold its representatives accountable. Without the means to educate citizens, that vision collapses.
Voters remain uninformed when they won’t tolerate competing ideas, only hearing one perspective on a given issue. The media must go beyond reporting facts; it must actively protect the public’s trust in its ability to report facts. Instead of fighting for subscriptions, newspapers should be fighting for credibility among different groups.
Making this happen is not as difficult as it may sound. Quite simply, a greater number of people must expect more from our media. When the market desires balanced coverage, partisan news will lose its monopoly. Americans’ dissatisfaction with the current landscape will gradually lead them to outlets whose first priority is balanced content.
The editors at the Redlands Bulldog are committed to exemplifying journalistic objectivity. We understand that some students would rather us take stronger positions. However, the Bulldog maintains that a publication can only maximize its credibility when it draws a fine line between news and opinion. We are only humans, but that goal—to inform without persuading—is what a newspaper should strive for.
My hope is that by the time they graduate, all Bulldogs will become advocates for a neutral press. Our generation faces greater existential peril than any preceding it, from increased nuclear potential to impending climate catastrophes. If we want the best people handling these threats, one thing is certain: the media must do more to ensure the public’s trust.
Editor-in-Chief, The Redlands Bulldog
Philosophy & Political Science ‘21