Trump Gives Journalism a Chance to Shine

Donald Trump, press
These boxes prove we have fixed Obamacare, believe me. Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy (CC BY-SA 2.0) See complete attribution below.
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Many members of the corporate media seem to view Donald Trump’s presidency as a threat. Instead, they should look at it as an opportunity that allows them to get their act together.

In a widely reported and fairly self-aware open letter to the incoming president, the Columbia Journalism Review put Donald Trump on notice earlier this week that the press corps would be doing…what it is paid to do. The letter states that journalists would hold Trump and his staff accountable when saying something that is demonstrably wrong, that they would cover the entirety of the government and generally fulfill their professional obligations.

Working men and women don’t typically expect a pat on the back for simply doing their job. Sure, the people handing you burgers and fries at McDonald’s would appreciate a heartfelt “Thank You,” but they won’t get bent out of shape if they don’t get it. Still, the media probably deserves our appreciation if it manages to actually focus for a change on reporting news instead of self-promotion, racking up page views and ensuring ad revenue.

During his campaign, Trump successfully tapped into the popular resentment of the news media. There is no reason to believe he will stop doing so now that he is president. Consider his countless Tweets attacking the media and his press conference last week, in which he belittled CNN for trafficking in fake news after the network put out a story that was decidedly not fake.

The popular resentment Trump correctly identified is mostly self-inflicted. Many national news outlets spend a vast amount of their resources on mundane stories happening right now. During the election, they covered speeches, Tweets and polls as though they were the Holy Grail of journalism. On the other hand, all but a few newspapers neglected in-depth investigative reporting or even serious looks at policy differences among the candidates.

While it was Trump’s campaign that exposed this resentment, it is Trump’s presidency that gives the press the opportunity to redeem itself. To do so, four things need to happen:

– Since Trump entered the race, the corporate media has seen him — and the strong feelings he elicits on both sides of the political spectrum — as a tool to make money. Or as CBS Chairman Les Moonves put it a year ago: Trump’s candidacy “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” That type of thinking has to stop. Journalists and the organizations that employ them have to worry less about what will generate ad revenues and invest more time and resources in solid reporting and analysis.

– Trump has proved time and again that he has very good political instincts. He will try to divide the media by singling out a few big outlets for his scorn while praising others and giving them preferential treatment. Obviously, the president and his team may be justified in singling out media outlets that are treating them unfairly. However, as the recent CNN example shows, Trump will also turn on news organizations simply because he does not like what they have to say.

In these cases, the rest of the press corps has to stand with their colleagues. At Trump’s press conference last week, other journalists should have stuck up for CNN.

– The media has to stop spreading information that is demonstrably false. Trump has shown a propensity to play fast and loose with the facts, which is why it is particularly important to call him out on things that are verifiably incorrect. In addition, news outlets should give a platform only to those Trump surrogates who can stick to the truth.

– Perhaps most importantly, the media can’t afford to get anything wrong. Not only does Trump deserve fair coverage, but every incorrect article will allow him to continue the narrative that the unfair/lying media is out to get him. He has very effectively portrayed himself as the victim of media bias throughout the campaign. In some cases, that might have been justified. In others it was clearly not.

The bottom line is that the media has to do its job. All journalism students learn that they are supposed to be tough but fair, not rush to publish stories without checking the facts, distinguish between true and false statements from their sources, and, when necessary, call out powerful people for lying — no matter who is offended. It’s time that the corporate media relearn these lessons. If they do not, it will be a long four years for them.

The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images: Donald Trump caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr (CC BY 2.0), background (Michael Vadon / Flickr (CC BY 2.0) and boxes (Abhi abhi / Pexels).

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10 responses to “Trump Gives Journalism a Chance to Shine”

  1. Mike Fairchild says:

    I’m sorry Klaus, I agree with your statements about journalistic integrity, it is essential to the effective functioning of our democracy, but you seem to also be implying that CNN is a credible source of information. Were you not paying attention throughout the campaign as they produced blatantly biased reporting in favor of Clinton? In my book CNN is fake news.

    • Klaus Marre says:

      Hi Mike. What this story is implying is that the story CNN ran that got labelled as “fake news” was an actual news report (unlike what BuzzFeed did). In this case, it was “real” news. However, for our thoughts on cable “news” overall, you can go here:

    • Mackenzie says:

      Klaus writes:

      “they [corporate media] should look at it [Trump’s presidency] as an opportunity that allows them to get their act together.”

      CNN is corporate media. This means they have an agenda (that of the people who own/fund them). There is no “get their act together” because they are NOT news. They’re propaganda. For Klaus to imply otherwise is either naive or deceptive. Isn’t WhoWhatWhy is a “nonprofit public interest news team” for that very reason? (even though they are a 501c3!!)

      By the way, let’s take the leap and assume that CNN was accurate in their reporting of this story. How does WhoWhatWhy know that Trump called CNN “fake news” SOLELY as a result of this one story? It’s not like they don’t have a history of lies/deception. Heck, under WhoWhatWhy’s “donate” link, there’s a video that begins with Russ saying: “I
      started Who What Why because I was fed up with the lies that the media

  2. Jonn Mero says:

    The arguments above would no doubt be the reason that so many find so little reason to pay for newspaper , both printed and online. Or they just go to Fox News because they are already brain-dead, and only look for entertainment or something to be upset about. In an age where it is so easy to be well informed, it is very interesting to see how many prefer being ill-informed (and opinionated)!

    • Mackenzie says:

      You wrote “In an age where it is so easy to be well informed,…”.

      Is it really that easy? Yes we have the internet but remember that it can be used just as easily to spread propaganda as it can to spread truth.

  3. (Comment by reader @XtremeSWMeck) it’s about media making choices/assuming attitudes for us and assuming we will fall in line (as we always have).

  4. Libertybellle says:

    It isn’t just the “corporate media”, in my opinion, it is the government (Democratic Party) controlled, corporate media.
    In other words fascism.

    This is why Obama asked the media not to be sycophants (like they were with him).
    He wants them to be the opposition media, unlike it was when he was president.
    That was their marching orders.

  5. This is what I hate more than anything: The Trump Administration and their proposals are going to be heavily scrutinized by the press, as they should be …. and THEN both he and his most rabid supporters will say, “All this stuff that’s being reported? It’s all just fake news. FAKE NEWS.” All I can say to the largest, most respected news organization in the U.S. is this: Report the news as accurately and credibly as you possibly can, and DON’T BE INTIMIDATED by Donald Trump and his fans. You will be criticized, you will be threatened, and it wouldn’t surprise me if your facilities are physically attacked. But you are the only thing that can prevent the U.S. from devolving into fascism.

    • Libertybellle says:

      The problem is when the media reports opinions like they were facts. Then crazed readers/viewers think its written in stone.

      For instance, there is the opinion that is widely reported in the media, that Christians are anti-science, or as the Huffington Post sees it: “The relentless assaults on the integrity of science by groups like the Discovery Institute have made it impossible for many people to understand the significance of a “scientific consensus.”

      There is certainly no assault based on religious anxiety, but a forthright attack on the falsehoods and errors coming from the science cartel itself. But then everywhere on the internet I am attacked for being “anti-science” because I subscribe to scientists who arrive at different conclusions from the same evidence. It seems that those scientists Democrats defend could be more responsible in convincing the public that there are possible alternative theories and conclusions to any set of facts. Instead there are nasty insinuations that Christians dislike science.

      I just checked out Media Research Center’s website and it is now reported at ABC news that Trump, the guy who is moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, whose son-in-law and daughter are Jewish, is saying things reminiscent of anti-Semitism in the NAZI era of Germany.

      The unthinking masses on the left will soon be howling at the moon about Trump being a NAZI. They heard it on ABC NEWS you know!!


    • Mackenzie says:

      Chuck Anziulewicz, you wrote:

      “Report the news as accurately and credibly as you possibly can, and DON’T BE INTIMIDATED by Donald Trump and his fans. You will be
      criticized, you will be threatened, and it wouldn’t surprise me if your
      facilities are physically attacked”

      I am not a Donald Trump supporter (btw, where is WhoWhatWhy’s coverage of Trump’s drone strike deaths in Yemen?) but the overwhelming majority of threats/attacks seem to be coming from people who are anti-Trump.

      -Recently there was an older lady who got kicked off a plane for berating a Trump supporter.

      -Actor Shia LaBeouf was arrested at an anti-Trump Rally In NYC.

      -Madonna talked about blowing up the White House during the recent Women’s March on Washington.

      -Monisha Rajesh (a feature writer at newspaper The Guardian) tweeted “it’s about time for a presidential assassination”.

      -NY Times writer/foreign-policy expert Ross Douthat tweeted “I’ve figure out how the Trump campaign ends” (following by a link to movie “The Dead Zone,” a flick that features Christopher Walken as a character who tries to shoot to death a politician).

      -In Chicago recently there were 4 black kids who made a Facebook Live video of them torturing a white mentally disabled man while someone yelled “F*** Trump!” and “F*** white people!”

      -Saturday Night Live writer Katie Rich recently mocked Donald Trump’s 10 year old son, Barron Trump (saying he would be the first “homeschool shooter”).

      I could go on and on and on with this.