Jeff Ballou spoke about press freedom and the changing dynamics in the media after 100 days in Trump’s presidency.
By Bailey Hendricks
President of the National Press Club Jeff Ballou railed against media oppression in the era of President Donald Trump during the J-Day keynote April 27.
“The power of collective voice is critical in press freedom,” Ballou said.
Ballou said a member of the Press Club, a journalist for the Washington Post, was recently held in solitary confinement for simply doing his job as a journalist. However, the Press Club banded together and helped the member get out of jail.
Trump is not supporting all parts of the Constitution by going after the press, Ballou said.
“Stop undermining the Constitution,” Ballou said. “It’s the glue that keeps this country together.”
The role of a journalist is one of dangerous grounds, Ballou said. He emphasized the importance of knowing your rights. Ballou held up a pocket size version of the United States Constitution and read the first amendment aloud. He told the audience that the Constitution was journalists’ job descriptions.
“You can’t be sued for the truth,” Ballou said. “There’s still a systematic assault on a free and independent press.”
However, Ballou said the Trump administration may, in some regards, be a more accessible White House than the Obama White House.
“Trump likes being in front of the camera,” Ballou said. “He uses the press in some ways that’s beneficial to us. He lives for this stuff. It’s not a bad thing to say about the president. It’s just how he operates.”
Because of the different dynamics with the Trump administration, Ballou said some have theorized that the war on the press is fake. Some skeptics have said the war on the press, and calling the media ‘fake news’ is just another way for Trump to get in the headlines.
“Fake news is an oxymoron,” Ballou said. “If it’s news then how can it be fake?”
Ballou said journalists cover the voice of the voiceless.
“We need to do what we do best, and that’s great storytelling,” Ballou said.
Following the event, students reflected on Ballou’s speech and advice to future journalists in this politically tense climate.
Mass communication and political science double major Marcus Dieterle said, “Jeff Ballou kind of inspired me a little and kind of showed that right now especially is the time to be steadfast in our reporting, and go after the truth with a club.”
Literature major McKenna Graham said, “I feel like it’s more important than ever that journalists and people who are reporting, and the press in general is just fighting back against the people who might not wish them well.”