Discourse / Editorials / October 19, 2016

Thoughts from the Embers: Hold media accountable for the right reasons

On Oct. 12, The New York Times published an article in which a businesswoman recounts being groped by Trump on an airplane in the early ‘80s. The Times confirmed her story with the people she told at the time, a small number due to the common conception in the ‘80s that sexual assault was the victim’s fault.

Via Twitter, Trump denounced the article as “total fabrication” and threatened to sue. His lawyer contacted The Times and said that the publication of such an article so close to election made it “nothing more than a politically motivated effort to defeat Mr. Trump’s candidacy.”

“We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern,” The Times responded.

Criticism of covering sensitive topics is not a foreign issue to The Knox Student. Last spring, after the publication of an article about an investigation into racism on the football team, many comments were posted in response on the social media app Yik Yak.

Comments included:

“TKS is the ‘media’ we talk trash about on a daily basis.”

“TKS is to Knox students what Fox News is to Republicans.”

“Not a football player but seriously TKS?! Way to do a f***ing half-ass job on an athletic report as usual, leaving McCaf out to dry because you fail to get other opinions.”


For the article in question, TKS reached out to three athletic staff members, only one of whom agreed to comment.

After publication, the reporter of the story spoke with a staff member who questioned why the article was written if the coach had been found not guilty. Later in the conversation, it became clear the staff member had not read the article they were questioning.

These criticisms are fundamentally flawed. They are counterproductive and often uninformed. What would happen if the media never questioned judicial decisions, if it accepted every final decision passed down from government? Watergate would never have broken, Clinton’s emails would never have been found. An irreplaceable source of information for the public would become PR.

This election cycle, the media has been involved not only in coverage but also content, and the tension between the media and the public has become clear.

Fielding attacks from Trump and others, the media has been forced to proceed with objective reporting (the idea of objective journalism is up for debate) while their lawyers scramble to defend the reporters attempting to do their jobs.

Simultaneously, the blindspots of the media of this election are hard to miss. This time a year ago, Trump was treated as a joke. Media coverage of him was sensational and dismissive. He was a cheapshot, a character who incited headlines lewd enough to rival companies like TMZ.

Last fall, the subject of Trump arose during an interview between a TKS reporter and an undocumented student on campus. When the reporter dismissed Trump’s campaign as a joke, she was quickly corrected. To the undocumented student, and many others in the country, Trump’s rhetoric was considered highly dangerous. To view his claims of “building a wall” as comedic indicated a privileged viewpoint.

The reporter says she has rarely laughed about Trump since.

Trump’s words are potent, but his actions are worse. If the media didn’t cover sensitive subjects, such as Trump’s alleged sexual assault, or in a local sense, racism in Knox’s athletic department, the news would become fluff.

TKS is a media source, not just a student publication. We take pride in covering topics that are important to the student body. We’ve noticed that in this election, many citizens take to Twitter to denounce the media’s coverage but what good will that do?

In light of all of the controversy, TKS would like to reiterate our values which we pledged long ago and continue to abide by. Please hold us accountable. If any students have concerns, comments or opinions on what TKS covers, please submit a letter to the editor by emailing lgchamberlin@knox.edu Submit any corrections on coverage to tks@knox.edu. We would be more than happy to publish your voice, because we are an outlet for the student body. We understand that the media can make mistakes so inform us of ours.

We are here to cover the news good, bad and everything in between. Until the actions of our country change, the media won’t. Help us maintain our presence as a media source on campus and contribute to our cause.

TKS Editorial Board

Tags:  accountable discourse election embers media

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