The press is, indeed, the enemy.
President Trump isn't wrong. In his topsy-turvy view of things, anyone who isn't an ally equals an enemy. The press is certainly not an ally, nor should they ever be.
The press is always going to be high on the enemies list of politicians who want their supporters to trust everything they say and nothing anyone else says. I certainly acknowledge in this diverse, oversaturated media market, there is some reporting that barely qualifies as journalism. In fact, if it's driven by an agenda other than accuracy and the best obtainable version of the truth, I would say it's not journalism at all.
Trump and other Americans, of all stripes, get confused from time to time about what constitutes news coverage and what constitutes commentary. That is, largely, the doing of the American broadcast media such as CNN, Fox News and the other 24-hours-a-day machines that feel the need to create drama to keep viewers watching. If they committed to straight-up reporting of the news, it would at times be a little boring. Think C-Span. And how many people watch that?
Remember CNN's early days with Bernard Shaw at the anchor desk? Breaking news meant something big was really happening. And there was a lot of solid reporting going on. But it wasn't nearly as exciting and didn't chase ratings like today's CNN, Fox and other outlets.
Most of the time if you turn on these round-the-clock news channels, more time is filled by talking heads (just like me) than by newsmakers and news reporters doing their jobs. Instead, they put on panels of "experts," although for the life of me I cannot figure out why a lot of them are considered such. In any case, their entire role appears to be "spin," so they're adding far more heat than light to the subjects they're exploring. Based on the amount of time spent on reporting to journalistic standards and the expression of viewpoints, the channels should really be Cable Opinion Network and Fox Opinion Channel.
So yes, I'm throwing President Trump a bone by agreeing that what's delivered on the never-off news channels is less about news than about spin.
Long before Donald Trump took office, I advised people to read stories from multiple news outlets, including international media, to get a clearer picture of what's going on in the world around them. And to read daily.
Why? Well, let's pretend you're given an assignment to cover, say, illegal immigration for a publication. Do you believe it's possible to write a single story that fully captures all aspects of such a complicated issue? Even on local stories, which are often far less complicated, reporters may get only 15 or 20 paragraphs to explore that day's news. Decisions have to be made about what's included and what's not. Someone directly involved may have other information he wishes the reporter would have included in their story, but decisions have to be made about what stays and what goes, all with an eye toward giving people enough to understand what happened even though more details could flesh it out.
I don't want to sound like the opening of "The X Files," but the truth is out there. The more one reads, the more one can discern what that truth is. Not your truth or my truth, but actual truth.
Journalists know their stories cannot include everything and it can be an agonizing process to decide what stays and what goes in each day's coverage. That's not an exercise in bias. Fairness is indeed part of the mix of goals. But for every story written by a reporter, someone else might have made different choices about what's most important to deliver in a limited mount of space, and what's not as important. When something gets left out, it's not usually the result of some dastardly plan to unfairly influence people's understanding. Can I say that's never been the case? No, there are some pretty famous examples. But most reporters are attempting to ethically and professionally cover the news. And when Donald Trump lies about something -- and there's no question he lies and spins plenty -- it's not bias to report information that makes him out to be a liar.
The best antidote to any bias, real or perceived, is seeking information from multiple sources and the application of critical thinking skills. A person 100 percent convinced need not be afraid of additional information.
Some will say they don't have time for that. Fair enough. But the less one reads -- and the less diversity they include in their reading -- the less valid their claims of a biased media can be.
Rely less on the noise and unsubstantiated chatter of social media. Pursue reputable news sources (i.e., quality reporting). Stop immediately dismissing information that conflicts with your point of view. Don't immediately embrace a statement just because it confirms your own beliefs. And don't trust any politician who advances the idea that his version of events or situations is the only version anyone can rely on.
One final thought: A friend last week suggested the press gave President Obama a pass during his eight years in office. I don't agree with that, but let's give the assertion the benefit of a doubt. If it was wrong then, it's wrong now. President Trump doesn't deserve a pass. And the country can hardly afford to give one to him, or any president.
Commentary on 06/25/2018
Print Headline: The truth is out there