Baseball hats, usually mundane clothing accessories, have stirred up controversy over the past two years thanks to President Donald Trump. Four words, stitched in white on fiery red caps, have caused people across the nation to either rise up in support or opposition to the lowly campaign slogan turned mantra; “Make America Great Again.”
The controversy surrounding the hats and the meaning people derive from them, has seeped into many aspects of American life. While covering a Trump rally in Minnesota on October 4, NBC reporter Jim Bunner donned a MAGA hat while he was reporting from the rally and was subsequently fired for doing so.
Those who heard about Bunner’s dismisall from the station had mixed reactions when a questions of whether or not reporters should be allowed to wear clothing affiliated with politics while on the job arose.
“They’re there to report what’s happening,” Kristin McKee, 19, of Chicago said. “They’re not there to campaign [for] someone. Unless you were doing an opinion piece, you’re just there to report what’s going on, you shouldn’t express how you feel about it.”
While clearly controversial, some believe reporters have every right to wear what they want while working.
“In a way, it still is freedom of speech,” said Izzy Cavitt, 20, of Freeport. “It depends on how he perceives making America great.”
Others shared a similar sentiment. Tyler Nuss, 19, of Seattle said journalists should report from an objective viewpoint, but added that, “There’s also freedom of speech so its kind of a gray area that maybe we need to talk about more.”
Jackie Spinner, a former reporter for the Washington Post and a journalism professor at Columbia College Chicago, provided her professional take on the firing of Bunner and the ethical implications journalists face when they demonstrate partisan support.
“We don’t and shouldn’t know what candidates journalists support,” Spinner said. “If [Bunner] violated NBC’s policy, then they have the right to fire him.”
Spinner added that journalists are facing a credibility crisis at the moment, and that journalists must strive to write and report with total impartiality, or else they risk losing the trust of the public.
“I don’t think there’s any circumstance where it’s acceptable for journalists to show who they support,” Spinner said. “How can anybody believe what you have to say? They way I look at it is, people are going to trust my journalism because they know I pursue objectivity. That’s the campaign button I wear: objectivity.”