Keep doing that journalism thing that you’re supposed to be doing anyway

Enough of the renewed, emotional calls from journalists for diligence, vigilance and earnestness in doing the news in the Age of Trump, and ignore the new Commander-In-Chief’s relentless social media trolling.

So says Jack Shafer, in continuing his line of thought about not to fret too much about Trump, and I agree with him, but this is all easier said than done:

“Reporters tend to be emotional souls, which gives them an advantage when hauling a load of bricks up a ladder for their ungrateful, demanding editors and indifferent readers. Emotion fuels their sense of justice and motivates them to keep on keeping on.

. . . .

“Boycotts and bans may fill a journalists’ heart with vengeance, or at least keep it from being bruised. But their maker designed reporters to be resilient, to take disparagement, derision, scorn, and sneering from lying government officials in stride. And for good reason.”

It’s easier to forget that many of us got into this line of work precisely because we knew that reporting the truth meant running away from the herd, not joining the flock. But modern-day establishment journalism and media has become as hive-minded as the institutions, political and otherwise, the profession is supposed to scrutinize, and that was the case long before Trump came along.

It’s also rich that this “caterwauling,” as Shafer calls it, is coming only now, and not all that much during the past eight years of the Obama presidency, an interregnum between Republican presidents heavily loathed by the same media establishment.

The Trump-media codependency has only just begun, and it’s overtaking a social media feed near you that you won’t be able to fully control, except by deleting your account. From Michael Wolff’s latest about all this, and the increasingly sad state of The New Yorker post-election:

“To deal with Donald Trump’s departure from ritual and propriety the New Yorker deems it necessary to depart from ritual and propriety too. Hence, two of the institutions most acidulously epithet free—the Presidency and the New Yorker—are now hurling them.

. . . .

“The issue may not be Trump at all, but, the startling socio-political divide he’s revealed. It’s two nations opposed to each other, with the media almost entirely on one side of the divide. It’s not so much Trump that the media doesn’t know how to cover, but a social movement that sees the media as one of its significant enemies. In this, Trump’s behavior, his constant tweets, his tit for tats, his free associations, his high baloney quotient are all designed to disrupt the media foe, and, among other things, give it a nervous breakdown. In other words, the media is taking the Trump bait.”

Ross Douthat wrote along similar lines the day after the inauguration:

“Mainstream journalism in this strange era may be freer than the fearful anticipate, but not actually better as the optimists expect. Instead, the press may be tempted toward — and richly rewarded for — a kind of hysterical oppositionalism, a mirroring of Trump’s own tabloid style and disregard for truth.

. . . .

“The danger for the established press, then, is the same danger facing other institutions in our republic: that while believing themselves to be nobly resisting Trump, they end up imitating him.”

I promise to get away from all this and back to more bread-and-butter topics related to journalism, especially as they pertain to local news. But the histrionics taking place inside my profession may be reaching a troubling critical mass that I suspect few will even try to understand, much less address in some thoughtful manner.

The media has let itself become unhinged, and is woefully out of its depth in confronting Trump in ways journalists should be scrutinizing all public officials. Trump has blown up so many institutions on his path to the White House, and the media institution looks more fragile than it has ever been.

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