The Daily Illini

Media fails to take accountability

Back to Article
Back to Article

Media fails to take accountability

By Ajay Dugar, Columnist

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”

This Latin phrase, “Who watches the watchmen?” is attributed to the Roman poet Juvenal. Over the centuries, this expression has been invoked to underscore the responsibility and necessity of scrutinizing those in power. This has typically been the job of the media — to investigate and report on the facts, to keep our government accountable.

However, it has been increasingly obvious that since the election of President Donald Trump, they have abandoned this role. As members of the Fourth Estate, it is their responsibility to search for truth, not to push a narrative. Sadly, they have failed in this role, most recently with the false accusations of perjury by BuzzFeed’s Cohen report.

In a 2017 study done by the Pew Research Center, data was analyzed about the media coverage received by the last four presidents in their first 60 days in office. The difference in media coverage is eye-opening, with Trump being covered more harshly than Barack Obama, George Bush and Bill Clinton.

When this coverage was broken down by agenda versus personality, Trump again is unfairly targeted. Even former President Jimmy Carter said, “I think the media has been harder on Trump than any other president certainly that I’ve known about. I think they feel free to claim that Trump is mentally deranged and everything else without hesitation.” This is a damning observation from the former Democratic president.

Say what you will about the president. I believe he is impulsive, boorish and divisive. No one will argue about that. But you cannot deny the results. The economy is booming, with quarterly GDP growth averaging 3 percent, consumer confidence is at its highest level in 17 years, illegal border crossings are down 41 percent and unemployment is at its lowest levels since December 1969.

But listening to the media, you would think President Trump is some unholy combination of Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Herbert Hoover — or a Manchurian candidate sent by Putin.

Rather than giving the facts and allowing viewers and readers to form their own opinions, the media has increasingly become enamored with pushing narratives and agendas in an attempt to stay afloat in a failing industry. It is quite ironic that the same industry that largely reiterates Trump’s unpopularity — currently at a 40.1 percent approval rating — has abysmally poor approval ratings (20 percent for TV news, 23 percent for newspapers).

After the election, FiveThirtyEight did an autopsy of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, which many outlets had as a favorite to win the election. They found polls tended to underreport the number of conservative voters and found evidence of liberal groupthink present in media circles. Only 7 percent of journalists identify as Republican, and of the 59 major newspapers that gave presidential endorsements, only two endorsed Trump. There is no doubt: Clear and evident bias is present and something has to change.

Rather than focusing on superficial diversity like skin tone and gender, these media outlets have failed to establish diversity of thought. The one-sided, largely liberal narrative being pushed is counterproductive to opening dialogue and finding common ground between the left and right. The credibility and integrity of the media is being eroded away. But these failures aren’t on the Trump administration; it falls on the media itself. It’s time to look in the mirror.

Ajay is a junior in Engineering.

[email protected]

Leave a Comment