Opinion | A ‘thank you’ letter to President Trump, from a journalist

Liz O’Connell Staff Writer

I entered my first journalism class in the Fall of 2015 at the University of Arizona. I filed into a seat, a couple off from the end and about six rows back, not knowing anyone in my 100 plus student lecture hall and honestly, knowing very little about a career in journalism.

I knew I loved writing and I was surprisingly good at it. Then add into the mix my love of the sports world and you get my plan to become the next Erin Andrews. Well, at least that is where my journey began in this field.

I remember sitting in that lecture hall, surrounded by the next generation of journalists who hoped to work in the music, entertainment or sports industry. Many wanted to write for The Rolling Stones or be on E! News. I obviously fell into those categories with a dream of being a sideline reporter.

Flash forward a few months later, with my dream still brewing, and somehow a presidential nominee Donald Trump enters the scene and the fake news era is born.

A switch flipped on, not only for me, but for my journalism school: I am not fake news. We are not fake news.

I was trudging along in my classes with my sports dream on the back burner. Every class cultivated my writing, my questioning and my instincts with an echoing voice ringing in my head. How can someone come into the spotlight and claim what I am working towards is all a joke?

I remember briefly passing by Professor Nancy Sharkey, a professor I never had, but her enthusiasm and willingness to teach brought in all students of the journalism school to her door. I spit balled her an idea of writing a thank you letter to Donald Trump.

I’m sure Professor Sharkey doesn’t even remember our brief interaction, but her immediate interest kept this idea in my pocket to eventually write one day.

She loved the idea and mentioned how she has even seen a transformation from students in that first journalism lecture hall I once sat in. Instead of students wanting to write about entertainment or sports or music, the years went on with students becoming more interested in news and politics and science.

And that one day is here as I pull out this long overdue idea from my pocket: a thank you from a journalist to a man who dismisses media as a fake and liberal agenda.

Dear President Trump,

Thank you for sparking my interest in the journalism world beyond the excitement of sports. But before you get ahead of yourself Mr. Trump, this expansion of my interest could also be due the years I’ve added to my life and my growing curiosity for the rest of the world over the course of your term.

I do thank you, though, for pushing me harder as I navigate this profession. Maybe you are not pushing me personally, but your followers and believers of fake news are driving your message straight home to me. As I interview subjects, I’m constantly pressured to “only report the truth” or not to include “anything negative” because in their eyes, I’m “the fake liberal media.”

I feel like I have to prove your negative opinions wrong, and more so prove members of my family wrong. Some of my family members are twisted up in your idea of fake media, which is highlighted at the dinner table as differing opinions come up in conversation. A slight stab from people I love only makes me want to do this more and so again I thank you.

I thank you for popularizing this term to shine a light on the journalism world. You’ve highlighted how hard we strive to do our jobs. We are constantly working to inform the public at the drop of the hat and are willing to get the news out at any time of day.

Reflecting back on my lecture hall from the fall of 2015, I am not the same person and I’m grateful for your role in my growth. I expanded my knowledge and my interests. You cast doubt over countless reporters and the profession as a whole, so I needed to find out the truth for myself. My curiosity about the world grew.

Friends and family thought I was crazy for wanting a reporter’s lifestyle with the little pay. But Mr. Trump, I thank you for cultivating my crazy dream into a passion I am fully in love with and I will not leave any time soon as I continue to work to overturn your idea of fake news.

I’ll keep working twice as hard — as I’m sure the next generation of journalists are doing — because unfortunately, even as you step out of office in January, your denigration of my profession will undoubtedly continue on in your Twitter rants. Maybe one day you will see I am not fake news. But until that day, thank you.