Craven speaking in to ACLU Members.
Donald Craven, a First Amendment Advocate and attorney spoke to a room of ACLU members in Normal, Illinois on Wednesday. Just five months earlier, at his last appearance in the area, Craven jokingly said, “I rise in defense of the enemy of the people.”
According to Willis Kern’s article on WGLT, during his talk on Wednesday, Craven said he no longer saw the statement as a joke. He went on to express his concern for the Trump Administration’s constant attacks on the media, comparing the president’s tactics to that of Hitler or 19th century Chinese emperors.
Quoted in the article, Craven noted, “our current president as a consistent practice works to intimidate journalists who question his actions and decisions, or will provide any scrutiny of his administration. And this is simply for journalists who are doing their job, and doing their job correctly.”
However, Craven didn’t only blame Donald Trump and his overuse of the term “fake news” for the current distrust of news media. He talked about how media outlets haven’t kept up with the changes in technology. Journalists haven’t adapted to the way most people consume news: digitally and in short form. He noted that unreliable sources have beat traditional media to this change and now reliable news sources don’t hold the same prestige.
Craven also talked about how media consolidation has decreased the number of journalists which means that fewer journalists are covering more stories on more platforms. This is likely lowering the quality of the news stories we read and again, disrupting the credibility.
Craven’s call to action for news media was, “we often just assume that everybody knows what we do. But we need to renew with some vigor our efforts to claim our spot within that structure and within society. And, damn us for that failure. It’s self-imposed.”
Regardless of if this problem is the media’s fault, Trump’s fault, or some combination thereof, I think that the general distrust of the news is a threat to free press under the First Amendment. I also agree with Craven that the lack of resources and poor ability of the news media to keep up with modern news consumption trends is partially to blame — but what can we do to change this rhetoric?
Trump and less reliable sources saying whatever they want and discrediting the media isn’t a traditional violation of the First Amendment — it’s not really a violation at all. But it’s preventing the press from playing its role as the fourth branch of government. It’s making it harder for citizens to know what’s true and what’s not true. It’s a threat to this country. While we can’t stop the actual fake news, maybe we can help support the real news, by subscribing to it, reading it and sharing it.