Thoughts On Moving Forward

I think it is safe to say that most of the world is still grappling — in slack-jawed disbelief — with what happened last night.

Donald Trump's election as President of the United States exposed many truths about America which, I must admit, I naively believed the country had moved past.

The racism, xenophobia and misogyny that Trump seemingly normalized during the campaign hearkened back to a time when the KKK was hanging black people from trees.

As an outsider, it was a terrifying election to watch. I cannot imagine how people of colour living in America must feel this morning; my heart goes out to them. 

A dangerous precedent was set in America last night that made a lot of hate-filled people feel justified in their beliefs.

What happened and what was said during the campaign is part of history now; only time will tell how Trump will act as President.  His surprisingly measured speech last night gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, for all his showmanship, he may proffer a more steady hand in the White House than he has shown during the campaign. 

For now, though, everything that we read or watch today about the future of America and the world is conjecture. There are still good people working to make this world a better place.

But what isn't conjecture, in my mind, is what happened to journalism throughout this election.

Two tweets struck me last night.

The first: "So all the fact-checking of Trump's lies, all the investigative journalism about his failures, even the tapes -- none of it meant anything," tweeted Mathew Ingram, a writer and journalist.

The second: "Journalists: you are more important in the next four years than you ever have been. This is a challenge. Rise to it," tweeted Robert Quigley, a journalism professor at the University of Texas.

Ingram's tweet speaks to the state of journalism and how a large portion of the public views it.

Many, many people don't respect or trust journalism. They see reporters as mouthpieces for corporate or political agendas. I've seen this not only during the election but in my day-to-day interactions.

Journalism has been hijacked by the never-ending stream of self-proclaimed news outlets spreading misinformation, trivial clickbait and lies. Fewer and fewer people are interested in fact-based debate and the discussion that strong journalism creates. People don't seek out stories that perhaps challenge their belief in an effort to better understand beyond the bubble of their world. Rather, they drift toward the Fox News' and truly biased publications that only reaffirm their narrow perspective of the world.

The US election proved this.

But the consumers of media are only half the equation. Media outlets and journalist are equally to blame. We have become lazy and cynical toward our own work.

We need to take a hard look in the proverbial mirror and ask ourselves: "what is the role of a journalist?"

Which brings us to the second tweet, the one about how journalists are more important in the next four years than they ever have been.

Quigley, the writer of the tweet, wrote: "This is a challenge. Rise to it."

This is our opportunity to change the course of journalism and be proud of our profession again. Journalists are the gatekeepers, we hold politicians and corporations to account and we expose truths to ensure the public can make informed decisions. We ensure our facts are correct and reported in a fair manner. We do our job.

Journalists need to rise to this challenge, not just when reporting on politicians like Trump, but in every story we write. Make sure it matters to the public and that it makes a difference. Don’t shy away from controversy for an easier story, we need to make the public trust us again and excite them about being informed.

Use this moment as a turning point to be more important than ever before and to be better than we ever have been. Rise to the challenge.