President-elect Donald Trump attacked many groups during his campaign, but one more incessantly than the rest — the media. He famously declared, “I am not running against Crooked Hillary, I am running against the crooked media,” during a speech in Fairfield, Connecticut. With that in mind, I wonder, ‘What will it mean to be a journalist during a Trump presidency?’
For Trump to declare the press as his biggest adversary is problematic because the press functions as a watchdog, holding the three branches of government accountable.
As a journalism major, I question what the future holds. How are we supposed to do our jobs effectively with a president and administration that will fight us every step of the way?
Since being elected, Trump has already broken protocol, denying requests for a press pool to travel with him to the White House.
During the campaign, he regularly described the media using words like, “disgusting,” “corrupt” and “biased.”
At an event in Florida, he pointed at reporters and called them “horrible people.” Will this be a typical day at work for me in the future?
Trump tweeted in August, “It is not ‘freedom of the press’ when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false!”
His comment appears to show a lack of understanding of the First Amendment and its broad protections against government interfering with the press. It also shows that his definition of false includes anything that isn’t flattering.
Trump told his supporters in Connecticut that the New York Times was “going to hell.” He said, “Maybe we’ll start thinking about taking away their press credentials,” adding, “When they write dishonest stories we should ‘be a little bit tough’.”
And it wasn’t just the New York Times. Trump’s campaign put many media outlets on a blacklist, denying them press credentials to his campaign events.
Univision, the nation’s largest Spanish broadcasting station was first.
Politico, Buzzfeed, The Daily Beast, The Washington Post and The Huffington Post followed.
Trump made his ongoing battle against the media personal. After FOX News commentator Megyn Kelly pressed him on his insulting comments about women, Trump told CNN, “There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
And it didn’t stop there. He called Kelly a “bimbo, a loser, crazy, hostile, unprofessional, and overrated.”
During a rally in Miami with more than 4,000 supporters present, Trump complained the media wasn’t reporting the size of his rallies.
“There’s something happening. They’re not reporting it,” he said pointing at NBC reporter Katy Tur. “Katy—you’re not reporting it, Katy.”
His supporters became agitated, turning to her, booing her, calling her out by name. The situation was tense enough that Secret Service felt compelled to protect her by escorting her to her car.
This is an example of Trump’s ability to incite violence from his more extreme supporters, even unintentionally. An Anti-Defamation League investigation revealed that hundreds of journalists have suffered online abuse from members from the alt-right, supporting Trump.
At a Minnesota rally, supporters were photographed wearing T-shirts that read, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required,” implying that journalists should be lynched. These T-shirts and the ideas they represent are terrifying.
This wouldn’t be the first time we have been threatened. Journalists have faced violence in recent history. They have been killed by the Russian government, ISIS militants, Mexican drug cartels.
Around the world, the safety of journalists has never been certain. But now, I fear that our safety on home soil is at risk, too.
More importantly, I have a greater fear than the one that exists for my safety, personal well-being and that of my colleagues. I fear our profession, one that’s sole purpose is to inform the public is at risk and consequently, so is our country’s democracy.
Melissa Bellerjeau is a sophomore journalism major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.