Forced to take Trump seriously

I’ve been attacked on every front important to me. As a journalist, how do I fight back?

At one time or another, President Trump has attacked every part of my identity.

He’s made disparaging remarks about Mexicans, liberals,  journalists, and women.

Like many Americans during the 2016 election cycle, I didn’t take Donald J. Trump seriously. Who could, I thought. Like a lot of people, I felt Donald Trump was just too ridiculous a character to have a genuine chance at the presidency.  

Now that we’ve made it through his first 100 days, I feel the same way.

But the part of me that is a journalist has been forced to take Trump’s presidency seriously, and it hasn’t been easy.

Before the election

During his campaign, Trump was quoted as saying, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

I am Mexican. My mother came to the United States in 1974, when she was only 10 years old, and before that my father’s parents had also come to the U.S. from Mexico. My heritage is very important to me, and although my parents had always raised me as an American first, my identity is tied to Mexico.

I’ve endured the micro aggressions and jokes my entire life, it’s nothing new. What was new was the blatant outright racism that Donald Trump and his supporters threw at Mexicans. A presidential candidate was calling Mexicans drug smugglers, criminals, and rapists. And people were okay with it.

His words had impact. Especially to those that did not have any Mexican family or friends, especially to someone who could easily believe that Mexicans were the “other.” The blame of American crime and drug usage had been placed on us once again, this time by someone who garnered popularity thanks to his “Make America Great Again” campaign promise/slogan.

Trump’s comments put Mexican-Americans in real danger. Trump supporters even beat a man nearly to death in Boston simply because he was of Mexican descent. I became nervous to tell people I was Mexican. My fair complexion allowed me to pass as white and avoid confrontation. My parents had told me my lightness might come in handy one day, I’d hoped the day would never come.

As the election drew closer, I let myself believe that once Trump’s campaign was done, there would be less hatred among the races. People would go back to policing racism and being ashamed to make those kind of comments in public. I was wrong. I was so wrong.

In September and October, the recurring theme in my journalism classes was joking about a Donald Trump presidency with our professors, while writing stories about him. We were told to write as though we were taking his run seriously. We laughed at how the major news networks spent time covering Trump’s antics. How could they even report what he said as though he was anything more than a joke?

November 8th, 2016

On election night, I was working as a writer for BUTV10s election show,The Vote 2016.” My main job was continuously checking the vote count in each state as the polls closed. My evening started at 3:30. In the writer’s room, filled with women from a diverse background, we felt confident at the end of the night we’d have our first female president. Hillary Clinton hadn’t been my first choice, but on November 8th, she was the best choice.

At the beginning of the night, we joked about a Trump win. “If Donald Trump wins, let’s move to Ibiza and drink cocktails for the next four years,” my friend Sanaz said. I told her to count me in, because the idea of Trump winning that night had not been a serious thought.

It felt like a slap in the face.

That’s the best way I can describe what it felt like to hear that CNN and other reputable news organizations were calling the winner. “Trump.” The shock on their faces was mirrored in our own tiny newsroom.

The journalist in me was confused. What had we done wrong? How could we not have seen what was coming? Everything else in me was broken hearted. I felt betrayed. Betrayed by my own friends, my own family members, my own country.

I shared my thoughts throughout the night on Twitter. 

Although most news sources had deemed Trump our 45th president, many announced that votes were still coming in, I let myself be hopeful for a few more hours, even though my spirit was crushed.

Everyone was gathered in Studio East, inside of the School of Communication at BU, for our producer Natalie and the professors to close out the night. Most everyone was upset. A few students hid their delight out of respect, and for that I was thankful, I don’t think I would have been able to keep myself together if they hadn’t.

My eyes met with an acquaintance that I’d known was gay. He knew that I was Mexican. He walked over to me and without saying a word we embraced and let out a few silent sobs. We hadn’t said more than a few sentences before or since, but that moment meant so much to me.

We wrapped up the night at nearly 2 in the morning. My eyes were burning trying to hold back the tears that had been building since the last few states had been called. I wanted nothing more than to cry myself to sleep back in my room, but I still had an article to rewrite and submit to my journalism professor and a class at 9 the next morning.

I did my best to vent my frustration on Twitter by promoting peaceful activism and retweeting political commentary I agreed with. 

The aftermath

Trump’s campaign and now presidency has had a profound effect on journalism, the media and entertainment.

Just one day after the election, still feeling overwhelmed and crushed, I was assigned to produce a package asking Boston University students how they think President Trump will fare during his time in office, with positive, negative, and neutral reactions. My emotions were raw, but deadlines don’t care. And though my professor was sympathetic to my feelings, the assignment stood.

For the first time, I was forced to “suck it up” and put my personal opinions aside for the sake of my work. I had never felt so sick about a project. Interviewing Trump supporters, coming face to face with people that has voted against me, made me nauseous. As I wrote my script for the video, I wanted to scream. I wanted to shout that Trump hadn’t won the popular vote. That Trump’s ideology was exactly what was wrong with America and anyone that had voted for him was just as hateful. That the assignment was stupid because we all knew that Trump was unfit for the presidency and taking him and his supporters seriously was irresponsible.

As I struggled with the assignment, I shared my frustrations with my dad via text message. He responded simply “Calm down, I love you. Don’t let him [Trump] claim victory over your life. It’s not a personal defeat.” Though it felt personal, I realized he was right, as a journalist, it wasn’t about me. I couldn’t afford to take everything personally.

Ultimately I ended up with a dull, objective 2 minute video in which I smiled as Trump supporters said they were looking forward to the changes that the Republican majority would bring and hoped Trump would follow through on his campaign promises. The same campaign “promises” that I viewed as threats.

I ended the video by saying something to the tune of “We’ll have to wait and see what a Trump presidency brings,” encouraging others to remain hopeful despite fears they may have, the same fears I had (and still have). I surprised myself by maintaining my composure and completing the assignment. I was able to set aside my own feelings and report on Trump objectively for the first time, I proved to myself that it could be done.     

The methodology of journalism has evolved over the last year in order to cover Trump. Journalists were pressed to maintain neutrality, letting the audience decide for themselves once the information was presented.

Trump’s  bending of the truth forced journalists to take a more combative stance, fact checking him at every turn. Before he had even been elected, Trump changed the way journalists presented political information. CNN Media reported on many of the changes journalists were making in order to keep up with Trump in early November. I think this quote from the article sums it up best.

“Trump provided journalists with a unique challenge. In his frequent lies and baseless insinuations, he went against the thing journalists claim to value most: truth. In proposing a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants, promoting a conspiracy theory about President Barack Obama’s provenance and refusing to commit to accepting the results of the election, he challenged fundamental American values. In attacking the media, he threatened the freedom and safety of the press itself.

To many journalists, these were not partisan issues. They were at odds with American democracy, some felt, and therefore worthy of an aggressive response, even if that gave the appearance of bias.”

Journalists had to lean away from neutrality in favor of the truth and because of this, Trump and his supporters have began to dub even reputable news organizations as the “biased, liberal media” and as “Fake news.”

Trump has been open about his contempt for journalists. In January, The Atlantic put together a string of quotes that outlines how our current president has attacked news media.

Here are a few of my “favorites.”

  • The day after his inauguration, he told a crowd of intelligence officers he has “a running war with the media,” whose members he called “the most dishonest human beings on Earth.” He then accused news outlets of lying about the size of his inauguration crowds.
  • After going a record-long span without press conferences, he used his first to berate a CNN reporter, calling himfake news,” and Buzzfeed News, dismissing it as a “failing pile of garbage” for its release of an unverified dossier containing damaging allegations about Trump.
  • His transition team said it was considering a plan to evict the media from their traditional roost in the White House press room. “They are the opposition party,” a senior official told Esquire. “I want ‘em out of the building.”

As the current producer on the BUTV10 series Good Morning BU, a live morning news program, I’ve been forced to take Trump seriously every week. As a news show, we cover politics in our “Capital Beat” segment and I am the copy editor in charge of reviewing and fact checking elements of the story. While I can’t stifle the eye roll when I see the latest public relations nightmare coming from the White House, I always take my responsibility seriously.

I’ve found that my personal issues with Trump’s presidency do not have to be completely separate from what I do as a journalist. It is because of my feelings that I’ve become more diligent as a journalist. I strive to have to most accurate story make it on air that week, I want to catch the president in a lie.

Trump has been a gold mine for late night comedy. SNL has seen it’s highest ratings in 20 years and late night hosts have seen growing ratings since Donald Trump entered into politics. Hosts like Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee have been praised for their ratings boosts due and sharp political criticism. The revamped political comedy has been a coping mechanism for many, including myself.

I can’t say how journalism will continue to change, but as a Mexican-American, a woman, and a human being, I’m grateful to journalists everywhere that are continuing to fight the good fight as the fourth estate.

The freedom of the press is crucial to our democratic way of life by providing access to information to the people as well as “checking” our elected leaders. It is written in our constitution (in fact it’s our first amendment) that the government cannot restrict the freedom of press to speak freely. And even though our current administration has tried (and will most likely continue to try) to discredit and limit the work of the press, I have no doubt that our constitution will be upheld.

 

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Covering the Huffington Post in its final months as the Huffington Post

Covering the Huffington Post these last few months has been interesting and insightful. I’ve seen how the Huffington Post covers major events like the super bowl, handles “fake news”, uses alternative storytelling in mobile applications, and covers breaking news stories all in it’s unique blog style.

Audience

I enjoyed reading the Huffington Post articles in part because I am a part of the Huffington Post’s target audience, young urban liberals. The sarcastic headlines about the political endeavors of the new administration were especially appealing during such a divisive time. The Huffington Post is very relatable in that sense, and I think they know it. At the Huffington Post, people write for people. Because of it’s blog style, anyone can write for the Huffington Post and share their opinions. It does not shy away from its liberal biases. It embraces them. This characteristic leads to the many Facebook shares articles receive daily.

Facebook Live

On Facebook, the Huffington Post was active by sharing articles frequently and incorporating live video into its feed. I thought that the Facebook Live video use was strategic and allowed for more interesting storytelling. Recently the Huffington Post had live video coverage of President Trump’s call to astronaut Peggy Whitson that was timely and interesting to watch. The coverage was followed by several option pieces related to the articles.

Breaking News

When it comes to breaking news, the Huffington Post was quick to publish stories on their main website, usually within the first few hours of a story breaking. These stories were then update continuously throughout the day with developing details as well as adding tweets featuring public response to the news story. I liked the tweets the Huffington Post added into the stories because they offered the reader more reader perspectives, they were relatable and served as evidence of the author’s opinion.

Introducing HuffPost

Funnily enough as I sat down to write this final news track, I checked the Huffington Post’s website to find that it was no longer the Huffington Post I had been tracking. Instead an updated version of the website boasts the sleeker, more youthful style of the new editor and the new name, HuffPost.

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The Letter from the Editor lays out exactly why the Huffington Post needed to change, discussing the new mission of the website is to tell stories of people who haven’t been represented in the news media. The editor also asks the readers to contribute to the change, reminding the reader that they are the Huff Post’s greatest concern. Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 4.49.43 PMScreen Shot 2017-04-25 at 4.49.56 PM

I think the Huff Post is headed in a good direction. Adapting to the times were living in as journalists and trying to be better addressing important issues. I’d still argue that the young urban liberal is the target audience, but who knows, maybe the Huff Post’s new chapter will usher in more diverse viewpoints. I also admire that these changes are being made without straying from the opinion driven writing of the original Huffington Post.

I will continue to read the HuffPost articles (most likely on Facebook) and am eager to see what this new chapter of HuffPost will look like.

 

The Huffington Post shoots for simplicity in Breaking News stories

Since the tagline of The Huffington Post is “Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post” I expected The Huffington Post to tackle breaking news with expertise.

After all if you’re selling yourself on Breaking News and Opinion, you better be damn good at both. The Huffington Post Opinion pieces have always been strong, so I was eager to find out more about the Breaking News side of The Huffington Post.

I logged on to both The Huffington Post website and The Huffington Post Facebook page to view the breaking story of the day which happened to be the removal of Steve Bannon from the National Security Council. No surprise on the main web page of The Huffington Post there was a large picture of Steve Bannon with the headline “Bannon Outflanked”.

Clicking on the article I was pleased to find, like with most web articles, a short video embedded within the article. However there was little else. Of course, since the story was breaking when I saw the article, I can’t say I expected to find more media attached to the article. When I checked the article again a few hours later it had been updated with Twitter reactions to the news. These updates made the article easier to read on my mobile device because they broke up the information heavy portions of the article, drawing my focus to reactions of the news.

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On Facebook there was nothing more than a link to the article on The Huffington Post main website, which I was a little disappointed by. I expected more interactive/innovative reporting on social media, but with Breaking News, the most important goal is to get the information out as quickly as possible, adding more to the article is secondary.

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Overall, the Huffington Post was quick to share the breaking story about Bannon’s removal from the National Security Council, but kept the coverage simple on both its main website and its Facebook page, adding few updates.

How does the Huffington Post use alternative mobile apps to tell stories? Facebook.

Multimedia storytelling. As journalists we’ve come to learn that this means telling your story on every platform possible. No longer are the days of print only. Now you can find the same story from the same “publication” on each one of its platforms. Different methods of telling the story ensure a larger possibility that the story will be seen and shared. Social media and mobile sharing apps have become a tool for journalists to share stories quickly and easily in several different formats.

The Huffington Post utilizes their social media in a variety of ways.

I’ve noticed when it comes to storytelling geared towards mobile devices the Huffington Post relies more heavily on it’s Facebook pages.

The Huffington Post’s Facebook page offers plenty of news articles that are also published to its main website, however mixed into the articles are listicles, Facebook Live events, and 360 videos.

These “more fun” types of sharing are more friendly to users on mobile devices.

The average user is more likely to click on these listicles because they can get through them quickly and understand the crux of the story. Personally I love listicles when I am just browsing social media to pass time. I typically associate listicles with Buzzfeed, so seeing listicles from Huffington Post was interesting. Several reminded me of the Buzzfeed-esque style of article, such as one titled “20 Billy Eichner Tweets That Made Your Newsfeed More bearable in 2017,” but they were not always lighthearted like I expected. Including one I saw titled “14 Things To Know If You Love Somebody With Anxiety”.


The Huffington Post uses Facebook Live to cover news worthy events for their followers. Advertisements for Facebook Live events can be seen on their Facebook page easily. When I checked the HuffPost Facebook I could see an ad for the upcoming event called “Stand for Rights: A Benefit for the ACLU” taking place on Friday March 31 at 7pm.



The Huffington Post also uses Facebook Live to produce weekly livestreams. One such livestream is called “Getting Through the F**king Week” where interviews and chats are done live on Facebook. These live interviews allow the audience to ask questions and contribute to the video as it is occurring. These posts usually stream live from the accounts of writers and editors at The Huffington Post and then shared.


The Huffington Post also uses 360 degree images/video on Facebook to show their followers interesting places around the world, in most cases via another app called Ryot. These 360 views can be accompanied by an article with details about the images.


One 360 degree image was of Aleppo, with an article sharing the difficulties faced by refugees.


Overall I think that The Huffington Post makes a fair attempt at branching into alternative storytelling apps. The use of listicles only made me want to check new articles on Buzzfeed. The Huffington Post’s use of Facebook Live is good, sharing live updates from stories around the world, (the live coverage from the women’s march was very interesting to watch) but still The Huffington Post would not be my go-to mobile news source. The 360 degree views were also nice but most were confusing to look at and the image changed while still pointed in the same direction, making me not want to look at the image for very long. I was also  surprised that the The Huffington Post does not have a featured page on Snapchat.

Behind the Scenes: GMBU

Go behind the scenes with me on the set of Good Morning BU! BUTV10’s first live news show! Watch Friday mornings at 10am est.

All footage recorded on iPhone 6 plus, edited on iMovie.

What do I do on GMBU? 

As a producer on Good Morning BU, my Friday mornings are filled with last minute script editing, making sure all my on air talent is prepared and ready for their segments, meeting with interview guests, adjusting the format of the show, setting up the studio, and answering every question that comes my way as the crew prepares for the show. And that’s all before we actually begin the show. During the live shows I act as Stage Manager, communicating the words of my director to my on air talent as we go live. My job is not an easy one, but it is one that I enjoy endlessly.

Capturing and Editing Footage:

On this particular Friday morning, I started recording footage on my iPhone when I arrived in the studio.

I attempted to take video footage of the writer’s meeting (Thursday night) and when writer’s arrived early Friday morning to update their scripts, but the video did not capture the hard work of writing as well as I would have hoped. Instead of showing my writing staff researching stories and bouncing ideas off of one another, the video just looked like a group of people staring at their computers. I decided to scrap this footage almost immediately after taking it.

I recorded the footage much like it is shown in the completed video, short clips (10-20 seconds) in chronological order. I attempted to get a variety of shots as best as I could without interfering with my responsibilities during the show. I wanted to show GMBU from behind the scenes, the same way that I experience it every Friday morning.

I had intended to include sound of the news being read by our anchors and our other reporters to give the video more context, but unfortunately the sound quality of the videos was not very good. you could hear other voices during my recordings that took away from what the video was showing. After realizing that the audio was not where I wanted it to be, I decided to use YouTube’s free Audio Library to add music to the background of the video.

To edit the video together I used iMovie. Although I prefer Final Cut Pro to edit videos, I was unable to go to COM to use the editing labs and decided to use the iMovie software on my own laptop. iMovie and Final Cut Pro are very similar editing programs so I was able to edit the video easily. (Although as anyone can tell you editing video can take a long time, no matter how easy it may seem).