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Changing Views of Objectivity and Ethical Challenges Conversed at CCSU

EIC of Christine Stuart, investigative reporter for the Hartford Courant Matt Kaufman, CCSU journalism professor Theodora Ruhs and writer for Hartford Business Journal David Medina.

by Christie Stelly

Journalists and students gathered together to discuss changing views of objectivity and ethical challenges in the new era of President Donald Trump and his administration.

Stan Simpson, the Robert C. Vance Endowed Chair in Journalism and Mass Communications, moderated the event that included panelists David Medina, writer for Hartford Business Journal, Connecticut Latino News and Identidad Latina; Theodora Ruhs, assistant professor of journalism at CCSU; Christine Stuart, editor-in-chief of and Matt Kauffman, investigative reporter for the Hartford Courant.

“Trump is the first president elected with no military experience or political background,” said Simpson. “He is running the country as the corporate CEO that he is and the reality TV star that he was.”

The first discussion by panel members was how long they believed this “reality TV star” mentality and practice could be sustained for. Medina said that “it’ll sustain as long as the press allows it to.”

“There are bills being put into place right now, as we speak, but we are too busy covering what he says,” said Medina, suggesting that journalists should report more on certain changes Trump is implementing, rather than on the outlandish things he says.

Ruhs disagreed in part with the statement that the media is not covering enough on all aspects of Trump’s presidency, including policies. She explained that part of the issue is how our media is set up as a business model.

“We are producing news for what is going to sell, what is going to bring audience members in,” said Ruhs, adding that she has faith in the media and believes that journalists are doing their best to cover these issues.

Staurt has more confidence about the future of the field of journalism. “Reporters are doing a better job at actually digging in and I am very much optimistic for the future of journalism,” said Staurt, who also said she believes there is no use in reporting alternative facts.

Kaufman believes that it is more on the public than the media to pay attention to key issues that journalists are reporting on.

“The American people personally decide what is important to them,” said Kaufman. It is not an issue of whether or not reporters are doing a good job reporting, but on what the American people are going to actually be interested in reading, he explained.

Some individuals believe that there were red flags that should have seen with Trump during the campaign, so Americans should not be surprised by what they are seeing now.

“He did exactly what he said he was going to do,” said Medina, also explaining many people were tired of the way the country was being run and Trump promised a change to them. Issues within only the first 60 days included false claims about the size of inauguration crowds, allegations of voter fraud and claims of Barack Obama wiretapping Trump towers.

Is there a “Get Trump” mentality in the media? The New York Times publicly stated that they were going to suspend the rules of objectivity and go after Trump. This brings about questions of ethics and objectivity, asking if it is dangerous to have this type of mentality.

Ruhs believes that it is journalist’s job to be watchdogs and hold people accountable. Instead of a “Get Trump” mentality, she suggests use of the phrase “accountability” instead. She added that the definition of what a journalist’s job actually is needs to be clarified.

Some would argue that Trump has been great for the media. Newspapers and other media organizations have had more to cover than ever. Many newspapers have had to hire new staff members because there needs to be substantial coverage on Trump. Readers are relying upon journalists to provide accurate news about their president so that they can remain informed.

The Pew Research Center reported that 36 percent of people surveyed got their news from news organization websites or apps, more than any other online source. This means that people are still relying on their news directly from news organizations.

The Pew Research Center also reported that two-thirds of Americans surveyed worry about fake news. People are remaining skeptical about the quality of news. This provides a hopeful glimpse into the future, since news consumers clearly care about where they get their news and the reliability of it.

Medina suggested that journalists go back to the basics of journalism and what it is supposed to be about. That includes holding authority accountable and maintaining the quality of information. Journalists need to always remain accurate and continue to serve as watchdogs and hold people accountable.