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Political attacks on media
should concern student journalists

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sprclogoby Stan Zoller, MJE
The cantankerous tone and rhetoric of the 2016 presidential primary races has raised more than a few eyebrows.

That’s not breaking news.

What may be of note for journalists, and not just student journalists, are the incessant and seemingly extreme attacks on the media by candidates.

And it’s not just Donald Trump, although he tends to precipitate many of them. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex) has launched his share of barbs at the fourth estate as well.

One things that raised my ire was Trump’s response to protestors during one his rallies. Feeling the need to acknowledge them, he retorted “Go home to mommy.”  Was this his way of saying that young people, as a disturbing old adage goes, “should be seen, but not heard?”  If it is, then student journalists need to be concerned because there should be serious concerns over how far this could go in a Trump administration in the White House.

Journalism educators should be concerned that continued assaults on mainstream media could filter down the collegiate and scholastic administrators, which could lead to further controls and restraint of First Amendment rights on student media outlets.

Journalism educators should be concerned that continued assaults on mainstream media could filter down the collegiate and scholastic administrators, which could lead to further controls and restraint of First Amendment rights on student media outlets.

Trump has also chided reporters and blasted media organizations with little concern for their professionalism and expertise.  And we’re not just talking Fox News here.

During the Feb. 25 GOP debate, which included Telemundo anchor María Celeste Arrarás from as a moderator, Trump said he does not pay attention to what Telemundo says.  It wasn’t his first attack on Telemundo.  Trump has taken issue with the network for many other reports.

Trump’s campaign manager was charged with simple battery of former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, according to Jupiter, Florida police.  Trump sided with his campaign manager, saying Fields made the whole thing up.

Cruz has also entered into the media-bashing arena, saying it was the “liberal media” that has catapulted Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton into the limelight.

Has the use of social media led to a new wave of attacks on mainstream media by candidates?  Probably not.  Social media has, however, made it more convenient for politicos to rapid respond and post – often without thinking – to media reports.

Concern for the mainstream media by candidates is far from unique during the 2016 campaign.  Word was that the during the 2012 presidential race the Obama Campaign wanted to prior review stories about campaign appearances by Obama.  Needless to say, that didn’t, as the saying goes, play in Peoria – or anywhere else for that matter.

Journalism educators at all levels need to re-enforce with their student journalists the need for incessant and thorough fact checking.  With questions of media credibility tossed around like snow balls, the potential for a trickle-down effect to administrators’ offices is very really.

Fact-checking sites like politifact.org or factcheck.org are excellent resources for checking candidates’ statements.

Journalism educators at all levels need to re-enforce with their student journalists the need for incessant and thorough fact checking.  With questions of media credibility tossed around like snow balls, the potential for a trickle-down effect to administrators’ offices is very really.

But fact checking should not be limited to political stories.  With the eyes on student media bigger than ever, student journalists and their advisers, need to be scrupulous in making sure every “t” is cross and every “i” is dotted.

Trump says he considers media coverage free advertising.  And as we’ve seen, if he doesn’t like “the ad” he goes ballistic.

When a paid ad goes awry, a media outlet can correct it and do a ‘make good’ – which is simply running the ad again.

If the ‘ad’ is a news story and it’s inaccurate, there is no change for a ‘make good.’

The result is a slam to the media outlet’s credibility.

As they used to say at the old Chicago City News Bureau: “If your mother says she loves you, check it.”

It’s an old adage; but one that is so important today.

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