NEW YORK – JULY 23: Copies of the New York Times sit for sale in a rack July 23, 2008 in New York City. The New York broadsheet announced it posted an 82 percent decline in second quarter profits as compared to last year. It also announced it would raise its newsstand price 25 cents to a $1.50. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
he New York Times doesn’t have much standing to complain about being labeled the “opposition” by the Trump administration, given a column the paper featured on its front page that actually used the word to describe the editorial direction of the Times.
Reporters and editors at the paper were indignant Wednesday when White House chief strategist Steve Bannon labeled mainstream outlets including The New York Times as the “opposition party,” and said the media should “keep its mouth shut.”
“I want you to quote this,” Bannon told TheNYT. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
The reporters who wrote up the interview barely contained their anger over the label in their report, and at least one editor took to Twitter to defend the paper’s “objective” coverage of the election. “To call journalists the opposition misunderstands our role,” editor Patrick LaForge tweeted. “We are not here to help anyone win or lose.”
Any objective observer of the Times’ coverage of the election would at least question LaForge’s assertion. But the paper itself was stunningly revealing regarding its editorial direction when it featured a Jim Rutenberg column on the front page in August headlined, “Trump is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism.” Rutenberg indicated he and his reporter friends were ready to “throw out the textbook” of standard fair journalism practices and pursue an “oppositional” tact in the column.
Here’s the relevant excerpt:
“If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?
Because if you believe all of those things, you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century, if not longer, and approach it in a way you’ve never approached anything in your career. If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, nonopinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable.
But the question that everyone is grappling with is: Do normal standards apply? And if they don’t, what should take their place?”
Rutenberg wasn’t the only one talking about ditching even the pretense of objectivity during the campaign, either. Former NPR CEO Ken Stern, not only acknowledged the major media organizations have “abandoned all semblance of objectivity” in an interview, he went so far as to say that it was the right call.
“Trump is an affront to American democracy and common decency, and if this is the price to pay for keeping him out of the White House, so be it,” he told Vanity Fair. “But here is most certainly a price to pay. The next time Fox News or Breitbart caterwaul about media bias, the claim will have substantially more bite to it.”
Trump is Toying With The Press and They Fall For it EVERY SINGLE TIME
Donald Trump has been front and center in the political limelight for about two years now.
You’d think at this point – and after all the brilliant slight-of-hand President Trump has pulled on the press that they’d stop falling for it by now.
Our press is so out of touch and dumbstruck, they keep getting gaslighted over and over and over again.
From USA Today
Why are the relations between Donald Trump and the press so bad? There are two reasons. One is that Trump is a Republican, and the press consists overwhelmingly of Democrats. But the other reason is that Trump likes it this way, because when the press is constantly attacking him over trivialities, it strengthens his position and weakens the press. Trump’s “outrageous” statements and tweets aren’t the product of impulsiveness, but part of a carefully maintained strategy that the press is too impulsive to resist.
The first thing to understand is that one of the changes going on with Trump generally is the renegotiation of various post-World War II institutional arrangements. One of those is the institutional arrangement involving the press and the White House. For decades, the press got special status because it was seen as both powerful and institutionally responsible. (And, of course, allied with the Democrats, who were mostly in charge of setting up those postwar institutional arrangements). Press quarters inside the White House and daily press briefings made it easy for everyone to get together on the story of the day.
Now those things have changed. If the press were powerful, it would have beaten Trump. If it were responsible, it wouldn’t be running away with fake news whenever it sees a chance to run something damaging to Trump. And, of course, there’s no alliance between Trump and the media, as there was with Obama.
So things will change. The press’s “insider” status — which it cherishes — is going to fade, with Trump’s press people even talking about moving them out of the White House entirely, and ignoring their existing pecking order in press conferences. (This is producing waves of status anxiety, as are many other Trump-induced institutional changes). And, having abandoned, quite openly, any pretense of objectivity and neutrality in the election, the press is going to be treated as an enemy by the Trump administration until further notice.
In fact, Trump’s basically gaslighting them. Knowing how much they hate him, he’s constantly provoking them to go over the top. Sean Spicer’s crowd-size remarks on Saturday were all about making them seem petty and negative. (And, possibly, teeing up crowd size comparisons at this Friday’s March For Life, which the press normally ignores but which Trump will probably force them to cover).
Trump knows that the press isn’t trusted very much, and that the less it’s trusted, the less it can hurt him. So he’s prodding reporters to do things that will make them less trusted, and they’re constantly taking the bait.
They’re taking the bait because they think he’s dumb, and impulsive, and lacking self-control — but he’s the one causing them to act in ways that are dumb and impulsive, and demonstrate lack of self-control. As Richard Fernandez writes on Facebook, they think he’s dumb because they think he has lousy taste, but there are a lot of scarily competent guys out there in the world who like white and gold furniture. And, I should note, Trump has more media experience than probably 99% of the people covering him. (As Obama operative Ben Rhodes gloated with regard to selling a dishonest story on the Iran deal, the average reporter the Obama White House dealt with “is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns.” In Rhodes’ words, “they literally know nothing.”)
If you read Don Surber’s election book, Trump the Press, it becomes pretty obvious that the press hasn’t been very good at understanding Trump’s strategies, or at responding to them. So far, there’s no sign of that changing as we move from the Trump campaign to the Trump administration.
So what should the press do? It can keep responding the way it has responded so far, or it can change its approach. But the latter may require more self-discipline than it’s got.
The killer counter-move for the press isn’t to double down on anti-Trump messaging. The counter-move is to bolster its own trustworthiness by acting (and being) more neutral and sober, and by being more trustworthy. If the news media actually focused on reporting facts accurately and straightforwardly, on leaving opinion to the pundits, and on giving Trump a clearly fair shake, then Trump’s tactics wouldn’t work, and any actual dirt they found on him would do actual damage. He’s betting on the press being insufficiently mature and self-controlled to manage that. So far, his bet is paying off.
That’s too bad. If we had a better press, we’d be much better off as a nation, and Trump’s strategy of capitalizing on the press’s flaws is good for Trump, but will probably make that problem worse, if such a thing is possible. But the truth is, we don’t have a better press. And as long as the press is mindlessly partisan and bereft of self-discipline, capitalizing on that is just good politics.
Fake News Demands Government Money | True News