Globally, there has been a rise in verbal and physical attacks on members of the media. On Wednesday, Nov. 28, visiting professor of politics Dr. Aaron Weinstein, Ph.D. led students through a discussion on press freedom at a Let’s Talk Politics event. Students filled the 70 McCormick Road first floor commons, sitting not only on chairs but also on the floor, and some leaned against the walls.
During the discussion, students and Weinstein identified problems with the relationship between politicians and the press and then tried to come up with ideas on how to fix these issues.
One of the difficulties identified was the recent murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the lack of presidential condemnation. Weinstein explained why this was different from history by posing the question, “What’s the thing that America has that it can leverage over other nations?”
That “thing” is that, historically, the United States sees itself as a moral nation. When this morality is not used on the global stage, Weinstein explained, “This traditional thing that America has done is no longer being done.”
Additional issues identified included clickbait or fake news, a lack of trust in media and the President calling the press the ‘enemy of the people.’ The lack of trust in media as well as politicians leads to a decline in political efficacy — citizens’ faith in government institutions and their feeling that they can make a difference.
“I think that challenging the integrity of the media, especially in a democracy, is really dangerous,” said Conor Chmiel ‘22, “but it was good to see that there are people who recognize it and come together to think about ways to combat it.”
Senior Jessica Held had similar sentiments and said, “It is assuring to know that we have professors here at Fairfield U who care about engaging the campus community in a conversation about what really makes America great – diversity of opinion.”
The room acknowledged that these are all issues that may be difficult to change. Weinstein ended the discussion by stating, “If you work really hard at it, you can fix some of these things,” and then reminding the students that there was a lot of pizza left.