The Main Stream Media: An “A” for Intellectual Arrogance An “F” for Journalism (Again)
As I watch day-after-the-election news coverage, I am irritated by a recurring thought. The public debate about the quality of the news media has been framed by Donald Trump as an issue of whether it is “fake” or not. Although I agree that there is a major flaw with the news industry, I do not think whether it is “fake” or not is the problem. Instead, the core problem is that the pedestal on which we have placed “journalists” is not warranted. The fall off that pedestal is attributable to the news media itself, and the remedy is simple but one the news media does not want to undertake. It starts with a self-examination about how three major Trump-related events have been covered: the 2016 election, the Mueller report, and the 2020 election.
In the 2016 election, the professional news media literally joked about Trump’s campaign and his chances for winning the election. I’m willing to give a pass to both those who conduct and those who use polls, which are often valuable tools, sometimes generally correct but most usually wrong by a least a small degree. But I’m not willing to give a pass to those who pontificated about how Trump was going to be slaughtered in 2016 — not because they got it wrong but because they were so arrogant about it. Trump’s defeat was a conclusion adopted by the news media herd well before it was warranted. By being so arrogant, the news media misled the American public. Their attitude became more influential than the facts they were supposed to be reporting as journalists.
Remember the days before the Mueller Report was released and before Mueller testified? The news media was giddy with the idea that now we will see the destruction of Trump. The Truth would be revealed. The finger would be pointed at Trump, backed by conviction and logic and law. Again, the news media, in a herd mentality reminiscent of how Wall Street acts when a stock becomes “hot,” bought into — and were complicit in promoting — the damage the Mueller Report would unleash. Remember when the Report became public? When Mueller shrank from testifying about criminal accusations? Remember how shocked all the pundits were when reality set in? Once again, the collective arrogance of reporters contributed to creating false expectations with the American public. The coverage of the Mueller Report before it was released was another example about a conclusion being adopted by the journalism herd before it was warranted. And the news coverage of the reality when the Report was finally made public was akin to a dirge played for a New Orleans funeral: slow and sad and imbued with disbelief — with the news media blaming Mueller with no blame for the news media itself.
The latest example of this sad situation is the 2020 election, which is still a story in progress. The pre-election giddiness was close to sickening, and at the same time for many people who are “Never Trumpers” (as I am) not unlike a bowl of potato chips and candy and junk food: let me have some of that … it tastes so good. The Democrats were going to flip the Senate. Biden was going to hand Trump an embarrassing defeat. America’s place as the City on the Hill for all the world would be restored. And nobody expected that on Wednesday morning we would again be reliving the almost unbelievable reality that expectations the news media bought into and helped promote were premature and unwarranted.
These are three examples that are relevant because the election is so fresh with us. But what about the earthquake in Haiti when reporters pledged that they would stay on the story and not let the world forget about it? What about the Chinese use of concentration camps holding Uighur Muslims that are only occasionally given brief visibility in the news, denigrating the “never again” philosophy that was supposed to become a global ethical standard? What about the children the U.S. put in cages without the ability to reunite them with their parents — in the news for one day, two days, including a lot of sad comments before falling out of the news again.
There are a lot more examples of incomplete and inaccurate news stories than there are of stories that were covered accurately from beginning to end. Is that the “journalism” that deserves to be on a pedestal? That’s not going to serve our population well as the world continues to evolve. But nobody is going to change it until the participants — “journalists” themselves — take a very sober and realistic look into the mirror and start examining what they are doing and the standards they bring to their jobs.
Doug Poretz, LLC