Time for reflection from big media
August 22, 2018
On Thursday, 300 U.S. newspapers collectively patted themselves on the back and defended themselves against President Donald Trump’s dangerous bellowing about fake news and journalists being the “enemy of the people.”
The news media, however, should also be united in giving themselves a big kick in the pants for blowing some really big stories, like failing to see how and why our current president got into the White House in the first place.
The news media are right to protest Trump’s autocracy-oriented pronouncements.
“Fake news” is a red herring — a diversion. The declaration that journalists are the “enemy of the people” is false and dangerous.
The Boston Globe, which started the idea of a united protest, wrote that Trump’s “enemy of the people” rhetoric “sends an alarming signal to despots from Ankara to Moscow, Beijing to Baghdad, that journalists can be treated as a domestic enemy.”
While I see why newspapers locked arms to protest Trump’s reckless rants, I have more respect for the ones that did not join the protest and said so, including the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, neither of which is a friend to Trump.
The Los Angeles Times warned of the dangers of “groupthink,” in which a group ends up acting on a wrong conclusion.
Both the Times and the Chronicle pointed out rightly that the locked-arm protest only fed Trump’s paranoia, either delusional or calculated, that the media are plotting against him.
This should be a time for some reflection among big media.
There is talk of a “media bubble,” meaning big-city media have unjustifiably restricted their political news sources, especially on the coasts.
Steve Bannon, the former presidential strategist, said the media bubble is “just a circle of people talking to themselves who have no (bleeping) idea what’s going on.”
Sophia McClennen, a Penn State University professor, writing in the web magazine Salon, faulted coverage of the 2016 campaign on three counts.
One was to focus on Trump’s shameless showmanship and to accept without question Hillary Clinton’s status as the ordained Democratic candidate.
Bernie Sanders, who strongly challenged Clinton for the nomination, was treated as a novelty.
Second, McClennon said, was the media’s nasty habit of calling election results before the polls close in the west. In 2016, she said, the premature call could have swung the very close election.
Third, she said, was that despite Trump’s uninformed bellowing, shortcomings in election equipment, protocols and procedures could have indeed led to vote fraud and wrong counts.
I hold to the “bubble theory” of why big media missed Trump’s ascendancy.
The media should cast a much wider net when covering political news, maybe even following up on some significant stories that propaganda network Fox News breaks. Sometimes they do get it right first.
I also support the cause of the 300, though. Trump’s anti-press pronouncements pose a danger, and while the president has a right to make his unsubstantiated claims, he should also keep in mind he is the leader of the free world — the free world.
Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at: