Trump's press bashing counterproductive, but some of it is warranted

Representatives of The Boston Globe newspaper recently reached out to other U.S. newspaper editors of papers big and small across the country to propose that a coordinated response be taken this week on the dangers of President Donald Trump’s blanket assault on the press,

The logic of the coordinated response was that we newspaper editors could make a powerful statement by standing together in the common defense of our profession and the vital role that news journalism plays in a government for the people and by the people.

A free and independent press is one of the most sacred principles enshrined in the Constitution, The Globe statement said.

In his generalized condemnation that all forms of news media (newspaper, radio, television and internet) all broadcast only “fake news,’’ President Trump incites citizens against the First Amendment – the very principle that our country was founded on.

The Globe editorialized that labeling all journalists the “enemy of the American people’’ and “dangerous and sick’’ is just wrong and that “this dirty war on the free press must end.’’

So, yes, I am interested in standing with all other U.S. journalists who implore the president to please refrain from condemning all journalists when it is really just a small percentage of journalists that he is really mad at.

In my view, television news stations have always been more interested in entertainment than hard, straight news reporting. Most of my criticism of the journalism profession is aimed at what I see on TV.

Hard, straight news reporting is laser-focused on reporting just the facts that are known, giving both sides of a story when there are two sides, and not injecting any hint of a reporter’s personal opinions.

It used to be that TV news stations at least tried to give the hard, straight news. Now, it seems, every TV anchor feels it’s their right and their duty to respond to the news someway by laughing, joking, or acting shocked – assuming that is what the viewer wants them to do.

TV news reporters are definitely not the only news journalists guilty of injecting their personal opinions into their news reports. The term for this poor form of journalism used to be “yellow journalism.’’

If you’ve ever watched the “Daily Briefing’’ at the White House on TV, you know what I mean.

The purported top print and TV news journalists in the country routinely ask “trap questions’’ they phrase in such a way that they are sure to get the answer that fits the narrative of how they personally want a story to develop.

Real news journalism is based on the premise of a free, unbiased, objective reporting of the news with no intent harbored by the reporter other than to inform citizens and to let them make up their own minds.

So many of the big newspapers and national TV cable news stations these days are owned by rich non-journalists – investors - and when I read or see news reporting that is shoddy and self-serving from these sources, I often find myself wondering about the possible ulterior motives of that particular paper or TV station owners.

I call on newspaper and TV station owners again to clearly separate your news reporting from your editorializing. The page that this piece is written on, for example, is clearly identified as the “opinion’’ page.

While I join other newspaper editors in imploring the president to stop disrespecting journalists with his blanket name-calling tactics, I also understand the frustration he must feel daily when untruths are written and spoken about him by some of the so-called top news organizations in the country.

Trump is not the kind of president that can be easily influenced by the rich and wealthy people (some of them media owners), like presidents before him and I suspect that’s part of this overall situation. That’s why Trump is so popular with a lot of citizens.

I can tell by the slant of the news reporting and the opinions of the talk show hosts that CNN’s owners, for example, favor everything from the Democrat Party and hate everything from the Republican Party.

When Walter Cronkite read the TV news so many years ago, no one ever knew his personal politics in his news reporting and rarely did Cronkite use up air time to share his personal views. But when he gave his opinion, everybody knew he was giving his opinion.

In summary, I suppose, I’m just as frustrated with, and ashamed of, some of the national news organizations as I am with the president.

The mission of news journalists should continue to be to report the news, as opposed to being actively involved in making the news.

John Bremner, the legendary journalism professor at The University of Kansas in the 1970s, was famously quoted as saying “If your mother says she loves you, check it out!’’

What Bremner meant was that journalists must never assume anything and always have a healthy skepticism about the news they are reporting, so as not to be used by anyone and to never take anything for granted.

If President Trump has a problem with how something is reported, his problem is with the specific news gathering organizations - not the entire journalism profession - and he should state his concerns that way.

News journalists must earn credibility and respect but they can’t get it unless they are fair and objective. When the opinions of the TV station owners, for example, end up in their news reporting, that hurts their credibillity. When readers and watchers can’t tell the difference between news reporting and editorials, there is a big problem.

Editorialists must earn respect, too, by learning to agree to disagree with others without making it personal and taking it personally.

I especially believe it’s up to all newspaper editors across the country to encourage citizens to continue to focus on the important issues of our times.

No one gets a free pass to disrespect the office of president of the United States, in my opinion. We can agree to disagree about how we feel about current President Trump, but we must always respect the office that he/she holds.

The biggest threat to a free press, these days, is the continued Wild West culture of the internet, where it seems anyone can write or say anything about anyone - including the president - without legal consequence.

Slander and libel laws must be applied to the internet and wealthy owners of the popular social media sites need to be controlled and regulated like all other media.

If so many national newspapers and TV stations weren’t owned by the same rich and powerful people, these things would have already happened. That’s the reality of national media, these days.

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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