Despite being the most watched cable news network in the country for the past 15 years, viewers still don’t consider Fox News to be part of the mainstream media — a testament to the evil genius of Roger Ailes and the Fox News marketing team.
Donald Trump lies and reporters fact-check him, then he and his team spin the lies to blame the “biased” and “dishonest” media. Trump’s team wants to create a world where no one knows what to believe, where facts and reality are irrelevant, and all that matters is what Trump says matters.
It looks to a lot of people like NBC and MSNBC are shifting right in order to compete for the GOP audience and appeal to Trump himself. The Trump administration’s increasing comfort with MSNBC and NBC only reinforces this theory. But as Fox News could tell them, once you start giving in and moving to the right, you may have a hard time stopping.
Over and over we’re seeing this discouraging and potentially dangerous pattern unfold: At a time when Trump and his team are ratcheting up their attempts to discredit the media, and as they stand poised to choke off all meaningful access for journalists, too many news organizations are responding with timidity and accommodation.
When Donald Trump is inaugurated later this month, the presidency will officially be held by an inveterate liar. And the way the press has covered Trump in the two months since his November election victory suggests that many journalists need to adjust their approach to address that reality before Trump takes office.
Yes, news media must strive to be fair, to hold all sides to rigorous account, to offer a balanced view. But occasionally, there comes a point when pretending to moral equivalence between those sides is a lie, an act of journalistic malpractice. No one ever had to remind Cronkite or Murrow of the need to speak the truth when the truth was plain and the moral imperative clear. No one should have to remind this generation of journalists either.
The next commander-in-chief is an impulsive, deceitful, corrupt, intellectually lazy megalomaniac. That’s a delicious character disorder for the villain of a comic book, and it’s ideally suited to a news industry whose audience is addicted to melodrama and whose narrative technique maximizes suspense, surprise and dread.
Question: How well did the press succeed in getting Trump to release his tax returns? In getting him to release relevant health information about himself? In getting him to hold a press conference during the final months of the campaign?
As Donald Trump’s three-ring circus-style campaign of misinformation winds down, one of the lingering questions is whether the press has helped normalize the kind of post-truth performance that Trump has so enthusiastically embraced.
Mainstream media has been ignoring the centerpiece of Hillary Clinton’s agenda and speeches as she has criss-crossed 2016’s battleground states since the Democratic Convention—that she wants “to make the largest investment in jobs since World War II in her first 100 days in office.”
Today, Republicans invoke the name Ronald Reagan as if he were a god. But they forget how he, for all his faults, had something today’s candidates lack when it comes to answering reporters’ questions: a spine.