By Kailey Love | Photo Editor
According to the New York Times editorial page, all we need to achieve progress in our country is the “vision, chutzpah and some testosterone” provided to us by the current administration.
In a compiled editorial series, the New York Times once again caught flack from many on the left for publishing a series of letters to the editor from Trump supporters across the country.
In the small paragraph preceding the string of letters, the Times stated that even though their editorial board “has been sharply critical of the Trump presidency,” they don’t believe these pieces are resonating with all readers. So, “in the spirit of open debate,” they published the editorial in hopes that liberal readers would better understand the reasoning of Trump voters and maybe find common ground.
However, as we saw with their “Nazis next door” piece, it did not go as well as they may have hoped.
James Warren of Poynter wrote, “The New York Times is in bed with Donald Trump! Or in the guest house out back,” in response to the letters piece. Jon Allsop of the Columbia Journalism Review called the editorial page “patronizing” and further went on to say that publishing the letters was an “unnecessary stunt — more likely to remind Americans why they hate each other than to advance mutual understanding.” This isn’t even delving into the thousands of angry Tweets that clogged the Twittersphere upon the publication of the editorial.
Despite my own reservations about how the New York Times has conducted itself in its human interest stories (dubbed “media safaris into Trump country” by Huffington Post reporter Ashley Feinberg in December) as well as my disagreement with the opinions expressed in the letters, I have to say it.
I understand what the New York Times is trying to do, and as a journalist, I agree with their decision.
Upon reading the letters, I came to several conclusions. Many of these letters were very focused on praising Trump’s policies and “victories” in the past year (“real pressure” on North Korea and Iran, the “defeat of ISIS,” the tax bill and immigration policies among them), and all of the letter writers seem perfectly pleased with his presidency.
Several said they’d definitely vote for him again, but there were a few that cited his tweets and overall character as unsettling or a bit unsatisfactory. One of the letters even referred to him as a “crude, rude and clueless dude,” but still said they believe he is effective in his presidency.
One of the letters that particularly struck me came from Ellen Mackler of New Haven, Connecticut. She said, “I thank my dear New York Times for asking to hear from Trump voters. It has been difficult to read the paper this year,” in reference to their “anti-Trump” coverage. She then went on to describe the alienation she felt as an avid New York Times reader and Trump supporter, but closed with “New York Times, I will always love you, despite our disagreement.”
We cannot deny that the media is under attack from those on the right who are trying to discredit them, and that those attacks have been successful. The Trump administration has singled out the press as an enemy of the public on multiple occasions, and a large amount of his base believe the same thing.
We criticize people on the right for turning to conservative outlets such as Fox News, but in reality, that is where they feel their voice is represented. Many of the op-eds or analysis pieces in the New York Times and the Washington Post are often left leaning, because many in the media are often left leaning. And who could blame us when the Republican president is verbally attacking us on a daily basis and labeling us as an enemy?
But also, how can we combat the battle of “fake news” if half of our country views us as a mouthpiece for the left only? How can we show them the facts if they refuse to believe them because of that?
You may not agree with how the New York Times is going about winning the affection of Trump voters, but I can’t blame them for trying.
For anyone who has chosen to go into journalism, it means putting aside biases and exploring all sides of an issue. First and foremost, we are journalists, and we are a voice for the people. And that doesn’t mean just the people that agree with us, that means everyone. From a senator on the Hill to a farmer in Oklahoma, we represent everyone equally. It is time we remind people of that.
This means allowing someone who voted for Trump to praise his “vision and chutzpah” even if we personally may not see it that way. I decided to pursue journalism because I wanted to tell other’s stories, and give a voice to the voiceless. No matter my own opinion, I am a journalist first. If somebody who voted for Trump wants to tell me what they think of his policies, it is my job as a journalist to listen to them. And I’m proud to do so.
Fighting this war on alternative facts is going to be arduous, but I believe that it’s just going to have to start with the simplest thing we as journalists do: listening.