Today, at the behest of the Boston Globe, more than 350 newspapers, large and small, are publishing editorials taking aim at President Donald Trump’s constant complaining about “Fake News” and the biased news media. This is the wrong way to restore media credibility in the people who already mistrust what reporters are telling them.
Two papers that got it right
Interestingly, two newspapers whose editorial boards no one would mistake for being bastions of right-wing politics had the right idea in declining to take part in today’s mass virtue-signaling.
The Los Angeles Times declined because, wisely, they see that today’s mass protest feeds into the very narrative that Trump is peddling.
The Los Angeles Times editorial board does not speak for the New York Times or for the Boston Globe or the Chicago Tribune or the Denver Post. … We would not want to leave the impression that we take our lead from others, or that we engage in groupthink.
The president himself already treats the media as a cabal — “enemies of the people,” he has called us, suggesting over and over that we’re in cahoots to do damage to the country. The idea of joining together to protest him seems almost to encourage that kind of conspiracy thinking by the president and his loyalists. Why give them ammunition to scream about “collusion”?
This brings me to my other concern of the Globe-led campaign: It plays into Trump’s narrative that the media are aligned against him. I can just anticipate his Thursday morning tweets accusing the “FAKE NEWS MEDIA” of “COLLUSION!” and “BIAS!” He surely will attempt to cite this day of editorials to discredit critical and factual news stories in the future, even though no one involved in those pieces had anything to do with this campaign.
The Wrong Way to Restore Media Credibility
These editorials are preaching to the choir. Those on the political left who dutifully voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and suffered a serious case of whiplash when what the media had been telling them for months about her lock on the White House turned out not to be true will nod their heads and shake their fists.
For everyone else, this is just more of the same.
This is the same news media that told us Mitt Romney was some sort of monster when he tried to staff his administration as governor of Massachusetts with qualified female candidates and mocked his “binders full of women.”
This was the same news media that echoed President Barack Obama and Democrats’ claims that Romney was living in the 1980s when he called Russia our greatest geopolitical foe.
This is the same news media that regularly likened George W. Bush to a chimp and mocked his malapropisms, but could spare not a snigger for Barack Obama’s “57 states.”
If George W. Bush and Mitt Romney were really as evil and soulless as the media spent much of its time portraying them—and they obviously weren’t—then why trust the media when they say similar, and even worse things about Trump.
Illustrating media bias graphically
Here are some magazine covers of President Obama during his presidency.
Here’s some for President Trump:
Notice a difference?
Andrew Malcolm nails it
Over at Hot Air, Andrew Malcolm points out the problem: The media watchdogs took a nap for the eight years President Obama was in office, so their warnings about the wolf when it’s already ravaged the village look a little self-serving.
Trump did not invent many Americans’ visceral dislike of the media. He’s using it, exactly as these 100+ newspapers will use their readers’ visceral dislike of Trump to influence a large audience on this day. It’s all fair game in a free society, even one as bitterly splintered as ours these days.
Many silent Americans see a Washington paper, for example, chronicling in excess of 4,000 Trump exaggerations and lies. Fair enough.
Where was that passion for lie detection during Obama’s endless reign of error when he spewed serial untruths about, among others, Solyndra, Fast and Furious, the IRS scandal, Benghazi’s video roots and how Americans could keep their insurance, doctor and about $2,500 in savings under Obamacare?
And yet you still get journalists, even so-called “conservative” journalists, in their ivory tower offices claiming that Obama’s presidency was scandal-free.
The local paper
Here in San Luis Obispo County, the Tribune, joined in on the dogpile.
I just want to make a few points about the Tribune’s contribution to today’s journalistic movement.
First, I hope that they’re doing a better job at transparency and making corrections than when I caught them doing various shenanigans a year and a half ago.
Two, you don’t help your cause when you point to the mass murder at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., and intimating some sort of connection between Trump’s attacks on the media and that tragedy. The attacker in that case had a long, ongoing beef with the paper long before Trump began bashing the media.
(In fact, if you’re worried about what powerful people with big megaphones can provoke in unstable citizens, you might want to consider the Bernie Sanders volunteer and Rachel Maddow fan that shot up the congressional GOP baseball practice last year. The amount of introspection by the media and Democrats on how their rhetoric contributed to this attack was nearly nil.)
Third, if you’re really worried about the safety of your employees, I suggest you get a security door of some kind, a security guard and or consider allowing your staff to carry handguns—or at least heavy backpacks.
The proper response
You want to improve media credibility? This isn’t how you do it.
The first thing is for the mainstream media to ignore his Orangeness’s impotent Twitter rants. They don’t actually do any real harm to the media. No one on the political left takes his “fake news” claims seriously. Most of the political right already has a low opinion of the msm and just nod their heads at the rote denunciations.
The second thing is stop with the self-aggrandizement. Let’s be clear, that’s what today’s editorial exercise was. It doesn’t win anyone to your side, and as I note above, some in the media recognize that this plays into Trump’s hands.
Third. Fire Jim Acosta. Fire April D. Ryan. These are not journalists. They’re self-promoters. They’re loud-mouthed fools who are more interested in making a name for themselves than actually doing any real reporting.
Focus on the real dangers
For all of today’s screeching over “fake news,” the media was actually survived greater threats under Obama’s presidency, though they didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.
First there was naming Fox News reporter James Rosen a “co-conspirator” for doing his job.
Then there was the Obama administration getting the phone records of Associated Press reporters.
Both of these are worse than Trump’s off-the-cuff bile, but were much smaller stories and didn’t prompt 350+ newspapers to call the scandal-free president to account.
In fact, if you want to get your daily dose of outrage at attempts to curb press freedoms, take aim at Broward County, Fla., judge Elizabeth Scherer, who should kindly return her law degree to the educational institution that awarded it and step down from the bench.
Scherer was not swayed. She threatened to restrict what the media can report, a practice known as prior restraint.
“From now on if I have to specifically write word for word exactly what you are and are not permitted to print – and I have to take the papers myself and redact them with a Sharpie … then I’ll do that,” she said.
Get back to me when Trump threatens something along those lines.
The prescription the media should take
The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway tweeted the solution to the media’s credibility problem. The big question is whether they actually have the intestinal fortitude to do it.
The way to hold Trump accountable is to report fairly and accurately on him and his administration. Not emote irrationally in a non-stop tantrum. Report. It’s the one thing many in the media find impossible to do. And this failure empowers him, obviously. #freepress
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) August 16, 2018
Here’s hoping, but I won’t hold my breath.