My Soccer Refereeing Story

I don’t use this blog very often anymore—my preference for playing mind-numbing video games rather than enhancing my mental capacity after a ten-hour day at work probably has something to do with it, and as much fun as writing sports previews and personal articles were, I have never been as dedicated to my writing and analysis to build up any sort of following that would make me prioritize it.

This weekend, however, something happened to me that I wanted to put out in the public forum.

On Saturday afternoon, I was refereeing an Under-10 boys travel soccer game.  I have been refereeing now for eight years, having been encouraged to register with my club teammate by both of our mothers as we were in the middle of eighth grade.  While I am nowhere near the level of fitness that I used to be (i.e. I’ve gotten a bit tubby), I very much enjoy refereeing, and hope to continue to do so for many years.  Now that I am a recent college graduate and am working full-time, I do not need to continue to ref as consistently—after coming home from school I would try to pick up anywhere between 40 to 50 games in the month between my return home in mid-May and the end of the season in mid-June—but I continue to try and pick up as many games as I reasonably can on two counts, the first of which is my never-ending love for the game, which developed during the time I played high-level travel soccer (through high school—subtle brag; I wasn’t great by any means, but I got to start in the same lineup as a current MLS player when I was in high school, so that was cool) and has continued to rise as I’ve gotten lazier.  The other is my recognition of the relative shortage of referees in the game.

It is exciting to see that the game is growing throughout northern Illinois—when I was younger, there were five major teams that I can remember: Eclipse, the Hinsdale Hawks, Eclipse, the Chicago Blast, the Downers Grove Roadrunners, and the Berwyn Blazers were some of the big clubs within a ten-mile radius of my home in Clarendon Hills.  Today, I can think of eleven off the top of my head, including Eclipse, the Blast, the Roadrunners, and the Blazers, and now also including Team Elmhurst, Wizards, AYSO 300, Chicago Empire FC, OBSC, LTSC, and LaGrange Celtics.  In order for the game to continue to thrive, though, referees are inherently necessary; however, incidents like the one I faced on Saturday are the reason that referee participation is on the decline.

The events that led up to this are inconsequential, so long as I was not blatantly making calls towards one team or another; this was my first game refereeing for the home team in over two years, and I believe I called a fair game, as evidenced by the fact that the coaches of both teams, while vocal towards their players for the duration of the match, never once complained about my calls.  The parents of the away team, however, were a different story.

Following the final whistle, I walked back to my bag, and a player’s mother stormed up to me and demanded that I provide her with my name and information.  I had another game to get to, and was not obligated to provide any information, so I declined to offer it.  She then asked me for my credentials, so she could confirm that I had passed my referee test.  I replied saying I did not need to provide that information either, as the fact that I had a 2019 USSF badge was indicative of the fact I was properly credentialed for the game.  She continued to press me for information, and I continued to deny her that information, packing my bag so that once the players had finished their handshake line I could offer them a “good game” and go on to my next match.


From here, things escalated further; the woman’s husband came up to me and said “Aw shut up, are you kidding me?  Just give her what she asked for!”  I continued to deny the request, indicating that I was planning to leave and that I would not provide any information.  As he walked away, he called me a “f****** douche,” not at an elevated volume but clearly intended to be loud enough for me to hear.  I asked him what he had called me, and he responded that he said what he did because I had disrespected his wife, stepping back towards me in an intimidating fashion.  During this interaction, three more parents from the same team attempted to crowd me and take my picture to be sent in to the league office.

Fortunately, the president of the home team was at the game, and along with the staff coach of the that team, spoke up to encourage the visiting parents to leave me alone and move on to the parking lot.  While I was confident that nothing would escalate further beyond that, I was still shaken, and the president offered to help me submit a report to the league and walk me back to my car.  I declined, as I didn’t need any more people getting involved in the situation and needed to make it to my next game, but I obtained his contact information to allow for the verification of the events that took place, and I submitted my own objective report to the league earlier today.

There are more games to referee than ever—a great opportunity to make money, get exercise, and enjoy exceptional recreation simultaneously—but many are wary of the amount of responsibility and abuse that comes with the position.  Having played soccer for a long time, I am somewhat used to the yelling, and take advantage of the lack of referees by virtually having my pick of available matches I want each season (I have 34 games this fall).  While monetarily that’s great for me, this deficit of officials is not good for the game; I refereed a high-level Under-18 game yesterday where I didn’t have any assistant referees (the referee from the previous game offered to stay, and we did the game together).  Showing up to work a game alone is not fun.  Being called derogatory names at a game is worse; a fourteen year-old could have refereed that U10 game, and if they were in the position that I was, I believe that there is a significant chance that they would not continue refereeing following that.  There are others that have heard similar stories and choose not to register themselves, or their children, to be referees.

I doubt that anyone that might ever read this could possibly do anything drastic about the massive amounts of abuse heaped on referees by parents, and sometimes even coaches and players.  Heckling referees is so common that it’s virtually an American pastime.  But that doesn’t mean that people are entitled to say whatever they want, especially at the youth level, when almost all of the games are helmed by people like me, for whom refereeing is a hobby rather than something they are wholly dedicated to.

So, with that, I have a few final points to make.  The first of those is this: I encourage those that are willing and able to step in and help referee matches, in soccer and in other youth sports, to please do so.  90 percent of the games I have officiated have come off without a hitch, and in those that had some sort of issue, I received excellent training to handle the situations at hand, and have consistently gotten great support from my referee assignor.  This disturbing incident has even furthered my passion for the game, and furthered my desire to see more people in the sport—there are plenty of fantastic opportunities to be had, as refereeing provides great leadership opportunities while also padding your pocket—and those that stepped up to defend me assured me that there are many great people in the game.  There are so many young people picking up this great game, and many others, and denying them the proper structure to play due to a lack of officials would be demoralizing on multiple counts.

My incident showed, however, that there is still a sense of entitlement that the referee is there to do everything right, and to take any criticism that comes their way without complaint.  We officials are not perfect—while I am sure I was correct in my handling of the game scenario that spurred these events, I am sure I made multiple mistakes in that game outside of that—and this is not something that we are required to do.  There isn’t a whole lot of training involved, sure, but when the shortage is forcing a lot of referees to give up a lot of their weekends to assure games can properly proceed, losing even a few more officials than we already have would leave leagues perilously short of proper referees.

So please, try to find some restraint within yourself to really yell at officials; true heckling is generally acceptable (unless it is a younger official; in which case, use common sense—don’t yell at a young teen), and so is an appropriate questioning of a call (my coach growing up was very vocal, and very good at this), as most officials, especially once they reach my age, will not take any comments personally, and if they are good at what they do, perhaps seek to clarify why they did what they did.  But the incredibly rude and very personal insult that I faced, and the numerous other ones many other officials have to deal with, are not acceptable.  I am as much of a competitor as the next guy, but we have to remember that the game is just a game, and that the official is simply trying their best to make sure the game is fair.  Additionally, if you see a coach, player, or another parent berating an official, don’t egg them on for your amusement; encourage them to recognize the reality of what they are doing.  As the game continues to grow, particularly in this region of the world, and even of the country, it is crucial to maintain its integrity, and if referees are going to continue to face these types of situations on a regular basis, then the game’s rise will be greatly halted as quickly as it has started.

My Story

This post is currently a work in progress!

To read the original “My Story” that I posted, and to get an idea of why it might possibly warrant an edit, please click here.

Also, be on the lookout for “My Story – Part Two” soon after this post is finalized.


Today would have been the 11th birthday of our family dog, Niko.  He was born on this date back in 2007, an Easter baby, and upon bringing him into our family home he became the center of everyone’s lives.  He was unable to use his hind legs, and therefore had to be carried everywhere, in his final couple months, so I know that he did not have an excellent quality of life prior to his being put to sleep.  That said, I still miss him terribly, and wish he was still with us virtually every day.  So, on this special day, I hope to look back on some memories and pictures of him with joy in my heart—and, while I know that this post may be long, and probably pretty cheesy, I hope that you do, too.

My first memory relating to Niko is a humbling one: I never wanted a dog.  My younger sister, on the other hand, was constantly begging my parents for one, so when they found a breeder that was about to have a litter of Dobermans, the breed that my dad grew up with, my sister was ecstatic.  When we went to meet the puppies—11 in all—we were drawn to three of them.  I use “we” here very loosely—in addition to not wanting to take care of a puppy, I was also scared of them.  They were loud, nippy, and smelled funny.  My only real favorite at the time was “Blue,” so nicknamed because of the blue ribbon around his neck—and the only real reason for that was that blue is my favorite color.  “Green,” who my mom was drawn to, and “Red,” who my sister liked, were also in play.  Ultimately, our decision was helped along by “Blue” and “Green” being deemed show dogs, we ended up taking home “Red” within a couple weeks of first meeting him, my fears being thrown to the wind.


You can see some of that fear in my face on the big day—the breeder and my sister were extraordinarily enthusiastic to hold the puppy, while I… was not.

He was the first born of his litter, and the name my mom found for him, Niko, literally means “victory of the people,” or, in another translation, “leader of the pack,” so we found it to be a very fitting moniker.


His floppy ears and tiny body made him cute, but even then he had an aura of regalness, and his massive paws hinted at the massive creature he would become.

Despite this, I remained fearful of him for weeks.  The tide finally began to turn after we returned to see our breeder for a play date with some of his siblings.  He fell asleep on my lap on our drive back home—something that scared the living daylights out of me but also eased most of my remaining fears about him.


In his recovery from his ears clipped—you can see the bandages on his ears in the last clip—he had to spend a lot of time inside.  That meant he very quickly got acquainted to the “lay of the land,” so to speak, in our house.  He was very excitable, as young dogs are wont to be, so my parents thought of using baby gates to prevent him from running rampant throughout the house, sliding across our wood floors and maybe falling on his healing ears.  It also proved to be helpful if he came inside with muddy paws, or when we had a large amount of company over.  As he got older he outgrew the gates, but they were still a very effective deterrent for him—when they fell over they made a loud noise that he didn’t appreciate, so he avoided going near them at all costs—unless food and treats were involved, and even then he was cautious.


Being inside so much early in his life also earned him a lot of little goodies.  His first Christmas saw him accumulate a bunch of little toys, which were continuously added to throughout the years.  He seemed to be really good at chewing things to the point that they split in half, but never enough that they were completely destroyed (the only exception to that was my sister’s Crocs, which were the only thing I can remember him chewing that he wasn’t supposed to), and he seemed to switch which bone he preferred on a day-to-day basis, so by the end of his life we had a picnic basket full of toys throughout the years.  He would leave them everywhere throughout the house, too—there was many a time when we would find chew toys tucked under furniture, or when I would find a bone entangled in my sheets (after my parents and sister got new duvets, my bed was the only one he was allowed on; he was, however, allowed to sleep, with a blanket on, on a huge bed right next to my mom).

My Bed.jpg

His bed

He also got used to getting a very large amount of table scraps.  We weren’t as bad as my grandparents in giving him people food—they spoiled him beyond belief, which is a very grandparent-y thing to do—but he got his fair share from us, as well.  He was a big dog whose eye level was even with our table, so it was easy for him to snatch things off the table, which he did when he was younger, grabbing two of my mini donuts off the table and managing to take a sip of my soup.  To counteract that, we gave him little bits from our meals every day so that he wouldn’t simply grab at things.  That allowed him to develop some great discipline—we could leave food out on lower tables and he wouldn’t take any—but whenever we had food he would look at us with sad eyes that were virtually impossible to ignore.  As such, he developed great tastes for, among other things, steak, yogurt, peanut butter, ice cubes, white rice, scrambled eggs, fresh sweet peppers, and my vanilla ice cream, the remnants of which you can see on his nose here:

ice cream.JPG

Once he healed up and finally got to spend some time outside, he developed a reputation throughout our neighborhood.  Dobermans, Rottweilers, and Great Danes are frequently portrayed as being vicious in media—or, at the very least, villainous, as in Beverly Hills Chihuahua—so in the first couple years we had him, people would cross the street whenever they saw him walking down the street.  Pictures like this may hint at that reasoning a little:


As time went on, though, and people around the neighborhood got to see more of him, they became much more comfortable with him, as they realized the truth—that he was a complete softy.  That sense of comfort was enforced even more whenever it was my sister walking him, like in the dog parade below:

Abbie walking him.jpg

My mom was the person that took him for the most walks—she was around most often and enjoyed the chance to have long talks with him, and God, on their strolls, which in his prime could last as long as two and a half hours.  He made many friends throughout the neighborhood—Henry, Mini Me, Tuffy, Chloe, Frisco, Molly, and his best friend Cooper—that he enjoyed walking and playing with, as well.  I, myself, preferred to spend with my time outside with him just… running around.  We were afforded ample space to do that—we had a big backyard in our first house, and the second one backed up to a giant field, so there was plenty of space for him to roam.  His favorite things to do seemed to be chasing after tennis balls and sticks—about as stereotypical for a dog as you could get—but he also just enjoyed being able to run.  My friends and I would sometimes run to opposite sides of the field as quick as we could; he’d pick one of us to chase after, often plowing us over in his quest to turn around or slow down, before the other person got his attention and he’d chase them.  My dad would sometimes take this a step further, having Niko chase him up the sledding hill and then back down, an incredible feat of athleticism to watch.

Running in field.jpg

He wasn’t much a fan of rain—it reminded him of showers, which he hated, and it got in his ears pretty easily, so whenever it was raining and he needed to go outside it sometimes took a person with an umbrella leading him to coax him out—but he loved the snow.  He sometimes ran into the path of the snow blower when my dad had it out, and was big enough to look like a little horse prancing in and out of the bigger drifts.  He also really enjoyed chasing after squirrels—he never caught one, as his loud barking and inability to change directions made it near impossible—but watching him try to follow them, then jump up the trees the little animals had scampered up, was always amusing.



As he got older, and his ability to be active in and out of the house began to diminish, he remained a constant presence in our lives.  We moved in the summer after my sophomore year of high school, and we put his favorite piece of furniture, a couch from our old office, in our front foyer.  It was there where he spent most of the rest of his days—he could see everyone coming walking near or up to the house, which gave him ample time to prepare to greet people with one of his trademark smiles, which always managed to brighten our days even after he couldn’t get up off of the couch to do it.  His lack of mobility also meant that his couch became the center of familial activity in the house—we all wanted to spend as much time with him as we possibly could, to the point where we would spend hours on end just sitting with him, talking, napping, and cuddling.


I would go more into what he meant to me personally, but there’s just so much to share, so much to say, that I wouldn’t ever be able to properly articulate exactly how much he meant to me.  So I’m just going to end with this: he was the brother I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have.  He was my source of comfort in my hardest times and the one of the brightest lights in the good ones.  He lived with me in two different houses and met both of my girlfriends.  He was my best friend.  I will love and cherish him, and these memories of him, forever.

Niko Gaffney








If you want/have more pictures, or want to talk more about Niko, comment below or contact me here.  I would love to hear from you.

On Journalism: Part III

This is the final part of a three part series on journalism.  To read the first two parts, please click here and here.

None of my previous criticisms are to say that there are not some phenomenal examples of what good, credible journalism looks like.  For those near my hometown of Clarendon Hills, you should check out the Daily Herald, which provides more unbiased news than either of the big-name papers in Chicago while also providing a more local variety of news items.  For more national news, I recommend listening to the National Public Radio (NPR), watching anything on NBC or ABC that has Megyn Kelly or David Muir as the lead anchor, or reading The Los Angeles Times (the article that first drew me to the Times was their analysis of the voting recount in Wisconsin—you can find it here).  On the sports side of things, John Dietz, who works for the Herald, and Mark Lazerus, who work for the Chicago Sun-Times, are two of the best Chicago sportswriters I can remember reading in my 20 years (they both happen to cover hockey, but that’s irrelevant).  On a national level, there’s a smattering of ESPN personalities who I follow unashamedly—Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic, Christina Kahrl, Bill Barnwell, Buster Olney, and Gab Marcotti—whose incredible attentions to detail, and journalistic integrity, are second to none.  These incredible men and women, along with many others, are definitive proof that the world of journalism has incredible potential.

However, the way that the industry is currently going, there might not be nearly as many opportunities for phenomenal journalists to find footing.  The problems mentioned here, and many other, more minor issues, are overshadowing much of the positives that traditional journalism has to offer, and if they continue to do so, these things might become the norm, which, in turn, will continue to undermine the field.  The President’s bashing of the media aside, journalism as we know it is getting closer and closer to needing life support, and for an industry that plays such a vital, if sometimes underappreciated, role in our everyday lives, that is certainly not a good thing.

Maintaining those opportunities for the people that are passionate about following in the footsteps of some of the greatest writers, wordsmiths, and presenters the world has ever done is crucial to journalism’s survival as we know it; that’s why it’s imperative that we support the people that are offering paid content for their work.  And I’m not talking about the behemoths like the New York Times, Gannett Company, or News Corp.—in my research over the past month or so that it’s taken me to write this series, I’ve found that the bigger the organization is, the less likely that they actually need money to sustain operations (duh) and the more likely it is that their work is starting to be more drastically affected by the current political climate (that’s just my opinion, of course, but I’ll just let the Times’s snarkiness in its recent coverage, as well as the poor evidence and rationale, and incredible bias, in Fox News’s, stand on their own)—but rather more local endeavors.  Smaller, more locally based journalists that may not have the power to get their names out as easily as bigger companies can.  I, myself, just bought a yearly subscription to The Athletic, a new company with in-depth coverage about Chicago sports.  The work that I’ve read from them so far has been phenomenal, and in paying to receive their articles, I’m added to a growing readership that allowed them to open up a second branch in Toronto, an impressive feat in an environment that is seeing more and more situations like the one surrounding the Florida Panthers that I mentioned in the first part of this series.  It’s also important for people to come to comprehend, at an early age, what bias is, and how to identify it, so that the crises that erupted over “fake news” during the recent election cycle either never occur again or are shot in the bud before they have a chance to gain a foothold as “mainstream.”

I recognize that journalism, as a field, will continue to evolve, and that many of the issues that I have with the industry today will be non-existent in ten years, only for new ones to take their place.  I understand that the industry will never revert back to what it once was, that print newspapers and hour of radio broadcasts will never feature as prominently as they used to.  But I am entirely confident if we can hang on to what made journalism what it is today—the honesty, and the dedication to solid, in-depth reporting—will allow it to thrive for many more years to come.  And that, I believe, would definitely be a good thing.

Have any thoughts or questions on any of the pieces of this series?  Contact me here.

On Journalism: Part II

If you haven’t already, please read Part I before reading this piece.  It provides an abbreviated history of journalism as we have come to know it and presents the issues discussed in this part.  You can find it here.

Perhaps this is due to falling standards, which can be traced back to the concentrated staffs of many news sources.  One of the places at which this problem is most evident is at the Advocate.  The year that we won the Pacemaker, every person on the staff, from the editor-in-chief on down to the staff writers, such as myself, had an opportunity to write, or work on, the month’s feature stories.  That caused people to be more passionate about their work, and it resulted in more interesting, and in-depth, stories.  The year after, though, more writing responsibility was stripped from the writing staff and placed on the already busy editorial staff, a structure that has remained in place today, for both the online and print editions.  The need for writers, then, was significantly lessened, as a single writer could easily handle at least two or three of the sidebars that we were assigned to.  Therefore, many writers either quit writing for school publications altogether or moved to the school yearbook, a far more collaborative project, or were turned away due to the incredibly exclusive hierarchy of the paper’s leadership.  These departures, or exclusions, led to (relatively) lower quality work and a decrease in unique ideas and perspectives, leading to some grumblings from current students about the Advocate’s limited scope, especially recently, in the light of the Presidential election.  There is another side to this coin, as well—decreased investment in journalism has forced news sources to concentrate their staffs, preventing them from being as effective in their coverage as they could be.  This is more prominent than the Advocate example—since traditional journalism isn’t as financially rewarding as some other mediums, and because of the decreased circulation of many traditional-based journalistic sources as people search for as much free news as possible, many magazines, newspapers, and websites are forced into major budget, and therefore, staff, reductions.  Within the past couple of years, a major sports-and-media website, Grantland, and many prominent newspapers, such as the Tampa Tribune, have been shut down on account of these things.  A more recent, and less dramatic, example of this popped up at the end of November, when the Florida Panthers hockey team shockingly fired their head coach, Gerrard Gallant.  No specific details came out about the shocking decision until the following afternoon, though, because the papers that covered the team didn’t have the money, or motivation, to send their writers to Charlotte to cover the team.  In this modern age, the idea that we couldn’t have crucial details on such a big move virtually immediately came as a huge shock, and the lack of money to have a full-time hockey beat writer caused many to have to wait longer than they wanted to.

All of the that previous criticism of the straying from “traditional” journalism, considering that this post is supposed to be in support of it, is somewhat hypocritical, considering that this blog, and blogs in general, are taking away some of the audience that would typically be buying, and reading, those older sources of journalism (more on that later).  As such, to draw in those audiences, these places have tried to hire more blogger-style writers to maintain their readership.  These other writers either don’t take the time to properly edit their work, ditch prose for more “engaging” content that turns into a hot mess, and drastically stretch facts, misinterpret them, or ignore them altogether, often leading to some unbelievably biased news.  Doing these things has caused the journalism field to drastically decrease in quality.  An example of the first point is my school’s own Babson Free Press, which has both a print copy and an online copy.  The print copy comes out too infrequently to evaluate, but their online site is highly representative of a lack of editorial focus.  None of the featured articles that it covered the last couple months, on the election or other topics—most of which are laced with numerous grammar errors, which is a common theme with many “newer” journalists, or are opinion pieces that have no business being counted as “news” for a school paper with a deep history—can be found without some digging.  The Free Press is not alone in its manipulation of journalistic details—“news sources” on both sides of the aisle have also put a stain on the journalism through their perpetuation of “fake news.”  The usual suspects were involved in the advancement of these false stories—Fox News regularly pushed anything that seemed to bolster Donald Trump’s agenda, while the Huffington Post did the opposite, while ending every one of their articles on Trump with “Editor’s note: Donald Drumpf regularly incites political violence, and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther…”— yet even traditionally unbiased papers like The Washington Post fell victim to “fake news” (their involvement is detailed here).  One of the most prominent of the places pushing fake news is the infamous Breitbart. The site generates hundreds of clickbait articles every week, coming up with fantastical ideas about the failings of liberals based on some faint rumor that may have been emanating from Washington.  Their frequent perpetuation of white supremacist ideals certainly doesn’t help, either.  Another one of those sources is every millennial’s favorite website, Buzzfeed, for which my girlfriend and I hold a very guilty pleasure.  The site fashions themselves as “the leading independent digital media company delivering news and entertainment to hundreds of millions of people,” and to an extent, that is exactly what they are.  But to claim that much of the things that they consider “news” is an embarrassment to the industry—the site has things like this and this filed under their news section.  All of these mistakes, and egregious failings of journalistic integrity, combine to keep the legitimacy, and popularity, of the evolving journalism field level lower than what it could be.


Come back on Monday for the conclusion of this series of posts!


On Journalism: Part I

Even though I happen to attend business school, English has been a passion of mine for as long as I can possibly remember.  My family’s photo collection provides some basis for this—I’ve seen tens of photos of myself engrossed in a book when I was younger, before I even started formal schooling.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten an even greater appreciation for English, as both a language and an obsession, to the point that it was close to being a borderline obsession.  I text with proper grammar and criticize those that don’t.  I won English Student of the Quarter in high school and was more excited than I had been to score a big win over a rival in soccer.  I often ask, somewhat jokingly, somewhat not, if I can help my mom grade her English student’s papers (yes, I know I’m weird).  This post about a more refined craft that I love equally as much as the more general subject—journalism.

I was first introduced to the world of journalism in my sophomore year of high school.  I was interested in joining our school’s newsmagazine, the Devils’ Advocate, but had missed the “try-out” process the previous year.  However, I was fortunate enough to have a friend on staff, and she referred me to the faculty advisor of the magazine.  I ended up joining the online staff, where I learned the finer points of the craft, before eventually joining the more prominent print magazine as a staff writer, a position I was lucky enough to hold for two years.  That first year, I was surrounded by some incredibly dedicated, and incredibly talented, writers and researchers, passionate and detail-oriented editors, and creative design staff, and this phenomenal combination led us to receive the prestigious Pacemaker award for our work.  Since then, though, the Advocate, and many other journalistic sources throughout the country, have been stricken with issues that could leave their futures in jeopardy.

Before delving into those problems, though, it’s worth doing a brief overview of how things came to be as they are today.  Formal journalism as we know it has been in practice since before the United States even existed.  The longest running newspaper in the country, The New Hampshire Gazette, has been in operation since 1756 (!!), and the longest running daily paper, The Hartford Courant, has been in circulation since 1764.  There were even papers that dated back to the early 18th century.  Up until that time, people in the US found out their news through word of mouth, letters, or almanacs, which were sometimes not factually based and not published on a very regular basis.  The introduction of newspapers changed all of that, and people began to rely on daily papers to catch up on their local news, and also to gain insight from noted opinions columnists.  Their ascension to fixtures of public domain was rapid, as they became immensely influential in the development of the American Revolution; one of the most famous of the Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, used the paper that he owned and published, the Pennsylvania Gazette, to further the initiatives of the revolutionaries, and many other papers supported those rebelling against the English.  As the influence of papers grew, so did their numbers; when George Washington took office in 1789, there were 92 daily papers in operation in the United States.  20 years later, that number had almost quadrupled, to 376, and that number quadrupled, to roughly 1200, by 1835.  The specialization of papers increased, as well; newspapers on a variety of subjects, such as business, foreign affairs, and even farming, materialized, as did papers from specialty groups, such as William Lloyd Garrison’s famous Liberator.

Newspapers remained the main source of journalism for people throughout the 19th century, and for the first 20 years of the 20th century; in fact, it was not uncommon for any one person to purchase, and read, three, four, or five newspapers every single day.  Around 1920, though, journalism as we know it was altered forever through the use of the radio as a broadcasting medium.  People could get up-to-the-minute news from the comfort of their own homes, and once they had a radio, the news was, essentially, free.  Newspapers continued to be the most popular medium for traditional journalism, but radio was slowly eating away at their slice of the pie, vocalizing the news that publishers had to work incredibly hard to get out on paper.  FM radio was established in the US around 1935, becoming more and more popular as the technology improved, and that same year, CBS hired Edward Murrow as its “director of talks,” headlining a series of news bits over CBS’s national airwaves while informing, and inspiring, hundreds of thousands of people.  As the medium spread more and more across the country, broadcast journalism, as it came to be known, became far more spontaneous than print mediums ever could.  It was much harder to hold back one’s opinions when constantly broadcasting, so it was in this time that journalism started to become more blatantly partisan.

Just as radio started to take off, though, a new medium for journalism emerged—the television.  In 1940, the famous radio broadcaster, Lowell Thomas, anchored the first ever live telecast of a political event, the Republican Convention in Philadelphia, an event that thrust the popularity of the television into the public spotlight.  Thomas was also the man that was the host of the first ever regularly scheduled television-news broadcasts 10 years later, in 1950.  Within the next few years, the major radio communications providers of the time, NBC and CBS, worked hard to establish daily news broadcasts in locales throughout the country.  The fact that these broadcast journalists could not only be heard, as they could be on radio, but also seen live, rocketed some of the more well-known broadcasters, such as the legendary Walter Cronkite, into superstardom.  ABC and WGN entered the television industry shortly after their rivals, racing to establish news agencies in every major city.  As more and more networks were created, the partisanship of journalism continued to increase; the visibility of broadcast journalists allowed people to put words to a face, and those journalists often used that to their advantage, using their positions of prominence to give their views on current events.  This partisanship was what led to the creation of more targeted news stations, such as Fox News and CNN.

While there is, of course, much, much more detail to go into, the evolution of the mediums discussed above are enough to connect the state of journalism today.  The field is extraordinarily large, with journalists opting to work for a satellite television station, on digital radio, or podcast, platforms, or even glorified blogs, instead of the traditional, yet still fully functioning, mediums.  However, with the contentiousness surrounding our country’s recent election cycle, and the man that it elected, Donald Trump, journalism, as an industry, has been under fire more than it has been in recent memory, and perhaps ever.  The number of people with newspaper subscriptions has decreased, and the trust levels that people have in those papers is shockingly low for publications that pride themselves on integrity.  Immense partisanship, immense bias, is not only to be expected, but is also readily obviously slanted, to be either conservative or liberal, especially over radio, where pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken reign supreme.  Claims of “fake news” are running rampant.  The President himself has lambasted the media for its coverage of him, while CNN president Jeff Zucker has admitted that the way that they handled Trump and his campaign may have contributed to him being viewed more favorably across the country.  This isn’t a post where I’m interested in delving into politics, about who is “right” and “wrong”—but I am interested in making clear that there is a real problem with the direction that the journalism industry is headed.

Come back on Tuesday to read Part II!

The Donald Trump Presidency: The Beginning

President Donald Trump gives a thumbs after being sworn in as the 45th president of the United States during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Donald Trump is President.

I know; I still can’t believe it either.

I still remember the day that everything came to fruition: I was sitting in a study room at school, pretending to study for my Operations Management midterm the next day, instead continuously flipping back and forth between Twitter, Politico, and NBC News to track up-to-the-minute.  I remember assuring almost everyone that asked me that Hillary Clinton would surely win the election.  I remember watching as the possibility of that slowly diminishing, from likely to unlikely to impossible.  I remember that after the result was (essentially) final, I messaged my dad, asking if Trump’s election meant bad things for my future, and also whether or not it I should buy any stocks in anticipation of a market decrease.

He left the answers to both of those questions up to my own judgement, which, to his credit, caused me to do a lot of extra research into Trump and his policies, even more than I had when deciding which candidate to vote for back in November.  The reality?  A lot of Trump’s policies seem, as they did in last year, pretty damn good.  Repealing the Affordable Health Care Act, Barack Obama’s well-intentioned but increasingly complicated attempt at universal health care, and replacing it with a less economically burdensome one will decrease many premiums for individuals in desperate need of federal health care.  His views on taxes, both for individuals and corporations, show that he is dedicated to increasing both the sheer volume of American business and the amount of money that people are able to use after being taxed.  He is also incredibly passionate about keeping the jobs that drive American business in the country, instead of seeing them outsourced to foreign places.  Trump has also advocated for an increased interest in bolstering our national defense and easing the burden of child care on lower income families, something that Democrats have not addressed in detail over the past few months.  He is fiercely protective of America and is looking out for its best interest, if his campaign slogan wasn’t obvious enough.

The protests over his election, both here and internationally, have reeked of hypocrisy—many protesters have displayed immense happiness, and see nothing wrong with, the enormous numbers of people that have disrupted the frosty, yet cordial, relationship between conservatives and liberals, and the dramatic, vulgar actions that have taken place at their gatherings.  They see no problem with decrying past protests of radical Democrats being elected, shutting down the voices of any detractors to their beliefs, and believing in things, and people, they know little about—their champions, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have been working incredibly hard to bring about progressive change for their entire lives, and only now people are starting to care?

Of course, people across this country, like me, have done their homework on Trump.  They’ve seen the potential success that Trump’s policies could bring.  More importantly, though, they’ve seen his blatant lies, unabashed racism, and poor morals.

And that’s the incredibly scary thing: there were enough people that valued brash “patriotism” and a little more cash in their pockets over honesty and the well-being of every citizen in the country.  That regardless of how contradictory Democrats have been over the course of the past year, that enough people overlooked Trump’s deficiencies and elected a man has put our reputation as the land of freedom and opportunity at serious risk.

Of course, having some extra money doesn’t seem like a bad thing, and that isn’t to say that fierce passion for our country should be overlooked—in fact, it is underappreciated now as it is.  Increased patriotism, on all sides, may be the only significant positive that he and his team have been able to generate so far.

However, the majority of that patriotism has not come from what Trump hoped that it would, but instead because of the stark realities that tens of millions of people are now having to face now that Trump has taken office.

It’s a sad reality that so many people feel the need to establish safe spaces so that they can feel comfortable in their day-to-day lives.

It’s also a depressing reality that the safe spaces are even necessary for any group of people- be they African Americans, Muslims, LGBTQ+, or any other marginalized group that are often faced with such a plight.

It’s a horrible reality that Trump is pushing forward with repealing “ObamaCare” without an immediate replacement, possibly leaving hundreds of thousands of people currently dependent on health insurance to fend for themselves.

It’s a sobering reality when marches of women who are fearful of having their rights lessened in the coming years had larger turnouts than the inauguration itself.

It’s a scary reality for many immigrants, people who fought long and hard to come to this country legally, who are being persecuted for seeking out the American dream.

But all of that is reality.  And all of those things have come about because of Mr. Trump, and the supporters of his that take the vile messages he spewed on the campaign trail to heart.

I have hope for the entire country’s future, under Mr. Trump in the future—not in his core values, but in his realization of the importance of the office he holds and how crucial it will be to work for every American.  Not in the extremists or nut jobs like Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani that have come front and center, but in the moderates, like Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, and John McCain, to guide Trump and make real progress on the issues plaguing our nation—and not just the economic ones that Republican congressmen and congresswomen will surely address, but those .

That hope, though, is rapidly slipping away.  I have thus far been incredibly disappointed by how Mr. Trump has been handling the biggest office in the world.  His focus in the days since he has taken office has been incredibly bad—poor Sean Spicer has been beaten up by the press recently for conveying Trump’s views, and his press conference today will only continue the torrent of mockery—and many of his cabinet nominees have looked more and more incompetent the as the finer details regarding their appointments have been made public.  Even I, a white male going into business, a person that should have a secure future under a former businessman, have a building fear of our new leader hindering any true way forward for the country, and leaving us even worse off than we were under Obama.

The Trump Presidency is only just getting started, though.  We cannot definitively say that it’s going to help us or hurt us—we have only our opinions.

So I guess we’ll just have to wait to see what happens.

See you in 100 days.