Freedom of press: The destruction of America’s trust

When I was writing these articles, it was incredibly time-consuming and complex, and I kept asking myself why I’m doing this? Then I remembered if I’m not going to write these stories, who will,

— Sally Kestin

By Austin Campbell
News Editor
[email protected]

New ideals in the United States have stifled the country’s progression. The average American seems to want to scream, “Shut up, and go away!” to any view contrary to their own. Disagree with a news source, and it loses its credibility and turns into so-called fake news.
Mind you, there are anecdotal sources of “fake news.” But, these instances are relatively scarce, often this is satire that is taken for factual reporting, The Onion for example.
In a small poll of UNC Asheville Students conducted by the Blue Banner, we asked: Do you trust the news industry or the media? The choices provided for the poll were “yes or most of the time,” or “no or Rarely.”

55% of the poll voted for the “no or rarely,” an alarming percentage to encounter on a liberal arts university campus. “I don’t think there is one societal opinion of journalism. Some people really value the news. Others might think it’s all politics in our country. I definitely questioned going into the journalism field when Donald Trump was president because some US citizens disregarded the news and made ‘fake news’ a popular term that was often misused,” said Emily Broyles, the editor-in-chief for the Appalachian. 

Founded in 1934, The Appalachian is the student newspaper for Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. Journalism used to be considered an honorable or heroic profession, the champions of the ordinary person. Superheroes and popular fictional characters are journalists — Superman, Spider-man, Tintin and many others. These depictions have significantly impacted American society, but varying factors have shifted the American populace’s opinion on the field. 

“Freedom of the press is something that moves society along,” said the 21-year-old editor. “The press holds people in power accountable and sheds light on issues we must know as students in institutions, citizens in countries and humans on this earth.”
Journalism has given the ordinary person the leverage to equalize the playing field for most Americans. Take instances such as the recent articles written by AVL Watchdog’s Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Sally Kestin, who is currently writing investigative articles on injustice in Asheville and Western North Carolina. A series of pieces highlighting how numerous poor homeowners and families in Asheville who owned inheritance pieces of land are being taken advantage of by people who are buying their rights of the property away, out-bidding the remaining family members rights for sums too high to pay and then turning around and selling the properties at market value. For the full series check out:
This level of civic championship and duty should be what journalism and reporting is in its truest form.
When I was writing these articles, it was incredibly time-consuming and complex, and I kept asking myself why I’m doing this? Then I remembered if I’m not going to write these stories, who will,” Kestin said.

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Deepening the divide: in it for the money
There is a level of political polarization in the nation that is mostly to blame on the news and media industry. They’re a for-profit industry. It’s about the money, the glamor story and getting the largest audience possible.
Some of the best reporting you can get nowadays comes from non-profit news organizations, reporters and organizations creating stories without the desire to make money. You can find many of these on the Institute for Nonprofit News, where AVL Watchdog is one of these non-profits. 

The money grab mostly came from the transition to the 24-hour news cycle, always running and always trying to get the most viewers for the most money. They create sensational headlines and stories to get the greatest viewership but overlook how the stories conflict with their rival companies’ stories. This can create confusion about which organization is telling the truth with their reporting. 

The idea of fake news and the opinions of specific news organizations have led to the distinct polarization of American news viewers. People typically have brand loyalty to specific companies, not a desire for accurate, ethical reporting. 

Society has come full circle on who to trust for factual news reporting. According to the Washington Times, in 2019, Fox News was ranked as both the most trusted and least trusted news source in America. This relates to the distrust Americans have between political parties and the “other guys,” so to speak. 

CNN and Fox News are some of the country’s greatest offenders for public manipulation. There are numerous media bias charts that show each news company’s political leaning. You can view this chart on to understand this better.
In addition, the graphs show what side of the political spectrum their content is leaning toward. For example, Fox News leans toward a conservative right audience, whereas CNN leans toward the political left. The further down an organization is, the least trustworthy the information. Fox News being far enough down in credibility that it teters on propaganda.

This is not to say that either organization doesn’t have moments of outstanding journalism, but mostly the stories are commentary style audience grabs.

A clear bias shows an absolute failure from these news entities. They’ve gone away with public service, away from objective reporting and moved towards the money or ratings, far from what many believe to be the duty of reporters.  

“I do not think the general US population trusts all the media. We have seen how misinformation, unfortunately, circulates in our digital age of news, and that is something we as journalists and society will combat for years to come,” Broyles said.
It’s almost to a point of being unrecoverable, and young journalists know there’s a far stretch for redemption of our industry. How do we regain the trust of people who don’t trust us as reporters and journalists before we’ve started our careers?