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Trump’s attacks on journalism inspire a new generation to write on

Clinton Nguyen (left) and Baja Beaman went over a draft during a Teens In Print class at Emerson College.Teens In Print

Laptops in silver, gold, and black are open on their desks.

On a Wednesday afternoon, teens are packed into an Emerson College classroom typing with fervor. The click of the keys is the sound of commitment — not to Twitter or YouTube — but to journalism.

The students of Teens in Print, Boston’s citywide high school newspaper, are an hour away from deadline. They are fact-checking, editing, and finalizing their thoughts.

Despite what President Trump believes, they are not the negative press covfefe in training. They aren’t aspiring fake news. None of them signed up for the “opposition party.”


These young writers are not the enemy of the American people.

The Fake News hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it’s TRUE. I am providing a great service by explaining this to the American People. They purposely cause great division & distrust. They can also cause War! They are very dangerous & sick!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2018

These students don’t just have stories to tell. They have questions to ask, truths to share, and change to make.

Kenneth Bufford is writing about gay culture as portrayed in Hollywood. Gabriella Diplan is reporting on gender identity discrimination. Jacob Downey did a deep-dive on the fans of Boston Comic Con. Gabriella Finnochio had a sit-down with Laura Perille, interim superintendent of Boston Public Schools.

Trump is on a mission to kill the credibility of the press, to chip away at the system of checks-and-balances and destroy accountability. He aims to divide and disarm the people.

But looking at this classroom, it’s clear we won’t be silenced. The assault on journalism is birthing a new generation of writers dedicated to fighting for their freedom.

“Telling stories is one thing,” says Bufford, 18, a recent graduate of Marblehead High School. “But telling the truth is another. People don’t think teenagers have a voice and can speak about grown-folk things. Here I am doing the research, making voices of the unheard heard, and it’s powerful to speak the truth.”


Last year, Bufford wrote about Trump and the danger of locker room talk. Our president would call that “fake news,” as he deems anything that reflects negatively on him.

A study by Gallup and the Knight Foundation found that 40 percent of Republicans say accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group in a negative light should always be considered fake news.

Trump’s determination to vilify the media is dangerous, the students say.

“Words matter,” says Gabriella Finocchio, 17, a Boston Latin School senior. “If you normalize something like the press as the enemy of the American people, people lose trust in the media and don’t know what’s going on and that’s not how politics is supposed to work. We have to hold power accountable.”

Even when it’s hard. Even when we have a president who points the media out at his rallies and heckles them with name-calling and lies.

“Stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” Trump said at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention last month in Kansas City. Some people booed the press.

Boo hoo. We have work to do. As Boston Arts Academy junior Jacob Downey pointed out, without freedom of the press, society isn’t free.

Earlier this week, the students watched “The Post” and discussed the Pentagon Papers. Over and over again, they echoed the importance of remembering why we are here as journalists.

“The press was to serve the governed, not the governors,” US Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote in the 1971 ruling that affirmed the press had the right to publish the Pentagon Papers.


Clinton Nguyen, 18, a recent graduate of John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, says the media serves as a tool of democracy.

“Without the free press, there would be so much alienation between us and how we get our information. We’d be a one-sided mirror blindly following orders.”

Journalism doesn’t just serve as a watchdog. It serves as a compassion lens.

This is why Gabriella Diplan, a 17-year-old Roxbury High School senior, got into the field.

“Journalism challenges your worldview,” she says. “It emphasizes the humanity of different people and different worlds.”

Trump wants Americans to believe journalists are here to start a war. We aren’t. But we’ll fight for our freedom.

“If you put your tail between your legs, he wins,” Grace Higgins, a 2018 Ursuline Academy grad, says. “It’s important to get those words out there and talk about the issues.”

We are not the enemy of the people. We are the people. And we write for them. We write for our country. Our lives depend on it.

Jeneé Osterheldt can be reached at and on Twitter @sincerelyjenee.