Opinion | Don’t let the right be right

Trump might be gone, but reporters still have a responsibility to hold the president accountable.

The past four years have been constant fodder for staggering headlines and scandalous scoops. And they’ve also made critique commonplace. Every time Former President Donald Trump sent a tweet, ordered a Diet Coke or patted his toupee (OK, maybe it was his real hair), reporters were there to document it.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a free press and freedom of speech. Newspapers and other publications in the U.S. have a level of freedom not permitted in many other countries, especially when it comes to putting officials on blast. 

But with that freedom comes a great responsibility. 

No matter who the president is, the press must be constantly ready to criticize them when they make mistakes. 

AJ Bauer, an assistant professor in the UA journalism and creative media department, is adamant that presidents be critiqued for their mistakes and misjudgements. 

“The press is really designed in this country to be able to be a fourth branch of government that isn’t part of government–to be able to shine light on corruption,” Bauer said. “If the Biden administration is doing things that are untoward, if they are lying or dissembling or making policy choices that are yielding terrible consequences for people, the press has a responsibility to cover that and to cover that just as seriously as it did the Trump administration.”

After President Joe Biden’s town hall in October 2020, the New York Post published an article that said audience members asked Biden “softball questions.” It published a separate article about Trump’s town hall on the same night, saying that the former president endured a “testy exchange” with the moderator. 

While I can’t judge what counts as a softball question and what doesn’t, the press can’t go easy on the new president. Republicans will use those softball questions and a seemingly pandering press to prove that the media is biased to the left.

Republicans, including Trump, have been claiming for years that the mainstream media is in the hands of “left-wing” Democrats. 

A month before the 2020 election, Trump tweeted, “THE MEDIA IS CORRUPT, JUST LIKE OUR DEMOCRAT RUN BALLOT SYSTEM IS CORRUPT!” 

Then, just days before the election, he tweeted, “I’m NOT just running against Joe Biden—I’m running against the left-wing media.”

Make no mistake. The press must not skew one way or the other; they must report facts. 

But no matter how diligent reporters are about maintaining balance, there are a number of things that might alter the public’s perception of them. First, Americans must not confuse pundit shows as evidence that the media is biased. Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow shouldn’t represent how news is gathered at their outlets. 

Additionally, Bauer suggested that Americans will likely see fewer scandals in Biden’s term, making it more difficult for issues to “raise [the media’s] ire.” Even if reporters approach the new presidency with the same sense of scrutiny, coverage may seem less critical.

Bauer believes that the press reacted negatively when Trump was elected because he was unusual from the beginning. He did not get the honeymoon first hundred days that the rest of the presidents got. 

“Regardless if it was Biden or literally anyone who isn’t a conservative Republican, the exact same narrative is going to be coming out of conservative media, which is, ‘Left-wing liberal media is biased, it isn’t covering the president hard enough. That’s why you need us, the conservative media, to be there to report the facts,’” Bauer said. 

Bauer does not believe that the public’s perception of the media will ever return to normalcy. 

““Even if [the mainstream media] sidle up to the conservative ideology and start reporting things that are still very conservative, there will still be people on the right who claim they are liberal because the media outlets on the right rely upon the foil of a liberal media in order to do their job and justify their existence,” he said. 

But we can’t let that happen.

Just because some conservatives might never change their minds about the mainstream media doesn’t mean journalists must stop trying to prove they are constantly seeking truth to report it. Journalists must ask Biden tough questions and press him until he gives proper answers. They must be persistent and dedicate themselves to providing Americans with crucial information, because that’s their responsibility. 

It’s not their job to be nice or give Biden a shot. It’s their job to lay it all out for readers to make their own judgements.