“Why didn’t someone in the press stand up for themselves before?”
That question has been in thousands of emails, tweets and snail mail correspondence we’ve received at the newspaper this week following a viral moment I had with Sarah Sanders during an on-camera briefing at the White House last week.
I don’t know. Well, I have an idea.
The other question I’ve seen quite often is – “What is wrong with the press?”
On that issue, I have a few more ideas.
The president actually has an argument against the press that while not framed correctly could actually lead to a fix - if in fact he has any desire to do so. He just needs to rethink the situation.
The issue isn’t “Fake News,” the problem is horribly inaccurate news and opinion parading as news. “Fake News,” like child slavery on Mars is actually far rarer than one might think. The real problems are news analysis shows people mistake for straight news, reporters giving their opinions in news stories and the lack of resources to properly provide readers and viewers the news and information we all need to make informed decisions.
At many newspapers librarians and clip files are forgotten luxuries while copy editors have joined the endangered species list along with the snow leopard, whooping crane and gorilla. Institutional memory continues to decline as veteran reporters abandon the profession for greener pastures leaving behind eager but unseasoned reporters.
All of this stems from the deregulating of the industry in the 1980s and the head-long rush of media companies buying each other out which has destroyed sound reporting. Sinclair wanting to buy out the Tribune Company is but the latest travesty. A mere six or so companies own roughly 90 percent of what you see, read or hear in the news. As companies gobbled each other up they found it easier to meet the bottom line by getting rid of reporters, cutting costs and satisfying their stockholders by covering the news equivalent of a sugar confection. More Bieber for everyone!
Meanwhile every president since Reagan has further eroded First Amendment freedoms by systematically destroying our business, clamping down on whistle blowers and denying freedom to reporters so that we may cover government.
In short, government intervention has given us the polluted playing field we see today and so it is very disingenuous when politicians complain about the state of a media they themselves have engineered. They are either completely ignorant of their own complicity in the problem or they merely wish to shift blame to those providing news.
Our reaction in the media is equally frustrating. We have long been taught not to be part of the story, but by merely standing up on television we are a part of the story. When reporters on television offer their opinion in a news story by saying things on live television like “Well, I think . . .” then they are consciously making themselves part of the story.
We accept reporters taking that action, but strangely have a hard time standing up for ourselves in order to do the job we should be doing.
The problem of course is education – or a lack thereof. And in some cases the problems arise from a press corps grown complacent and used to sitting close enough to the table of power to get some of the scraps off the table. So afraid are we of losing our scrap privilege we act more like the lap dog than a watchdog. If we just keep our head down and adhere to the old rules of not being seen we can survive – that is today’s paradigm.
This isn’t working and hasn’t for a long time. Timid reporters are seen as cowardly by our audience and our audience further erodes. Of course that’s okay by some in government who really don’t want independent eyes on their activities.
support a national shield law for reporters so they can do the job they are supposed to do in order to hold politicians accountable and take some of the partisan rancor out of the national argument
That is the proper way to frame the argument Mr. President.
It isn’t “liberal vs. conservative,” media. It isn’t “Mainstream Media” – a meaningless term by the way. It isn’t “Fake News,” which has been around us since the beginning of the republic.
We want to do our job. We want to hold everyone accountable – left, right and center.
We need to stand up and frame that argument correctly so we can do just that. Then, politicians need to act in order to save the Fourth Estate.