Tag Archives: donald trump

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.

It’s springtime for American journalism—maybe

Jack Shafer says Donald Trump has freed us all to do the necessary work outside the bubble of Washington and the White House briefing room, which may be rendered useless very soon anyway:

“As Trump shuts down White House access to reporters, they will infest the departments and agencies around town that the president has peeved. The intelligence establishment, which Trump has deprecated over the issue of Russian hacking, owes him no favors and less respect. It will be in their institutional interest to leak damaging material on Trump. The same applies to other bureaucracies. Will a life-long EPA employ take retirement knowing he won’t be replaced, or if he is, by somebody who will take policy in a direction he deplores? Such an employee could be a fine source. Trump, remember, will only be president, not emperor, and as such subject to all the passive-aggressive magic a bureaucracy can produce. Ditto the Pentagon, the State Department, the FBI, and even conventionally newsless outposts like Transportation and Labor.”

Furthermore, his paper and now digital trail of business deal wreckage is a global opportunity to really go for the jugular, since Trump is treating the media as an opposition party, and the media is vowing to oppose him:

“But he remains unpopular with at least half of the nation, and they constitute an eager audience for critical reporting. Somebody could remind Gingrich that it’s much harder to shut down readers and viewers than it is a segment of the media. The harder Trump rides the press—and he gives no sign of dismounting—the higher he elevates reporters in the estimation of many voters.”

The media wars have only just begun, and it will continue to be waged in the cocoons circles of the media and political establishments.

At the very least, this is is sobering opportunity for local journalists in troubled communities to further examine why so many voted for a man many believe is so ill-suited and ill-tempered to be Commander-in-Chief, and what he can really do to help reverse the decay around them.

That opportunity, to do that kind of journalism, has always been there. It’s doubtful the national media will do anything more than parachute into the Rust Belt, Deep South and other “red” areas of America, which is becoming redder with each passing election.

How Trump trumped the establishment media culture

Amid all the media fawning over Meryl Streep’s anti-Trump screed at the Golden Globe Awards, media writer Michael Wolff was preparing the finishing touches on a new column at Newsweek that the likes of Streep will likely loathe.

But as he has shown since Trump’s victory in the presidential race in November, Wolff has captured the essence of what’s been behind this unlikely campaign, and as it continues to escape the media establishment:

The ongoing expressions of shock on the part of the cultural establishment—expressed on a daily basis by The New Yorker, New York magazine and The New York Times, anything, apparently, with New York in its title—reflect their fears that the development of a more careful, regulated and corrected world is about to be undone. That the unapologetic white male has returned. You could hardly find a more threatening and throwback version of that than Trump—a rich, voluble, egomaniacal, middle-aged pussy hound. To write him you would need some combination of authors like Norman Mailer, Terry Southern, Harry Crews and Gore Vidal, all notably out of step with current cultural norms.

And this:

“Media fragmentation has created all sorts of thriving niches that accommodate the views of eager consumers, lessening the need to speak to a broader, more difficult-to-reach audience—the once-great mass market.”

And one more:

“Trump’s attacks on the media served to say that his language, his expressiveness, his ability to connect with the audience was more potent than the media’s. (In an interview with Trump shortly after his nomination was secure, he told me he was sure of victory when for the first primary debate, the usual audience increased almost tenfold because of his presence: ‘I’m more entertaining than the media.’) The media, in thrall to the culture establishment—and signed on to its cultural rules and concerns (hence its Pussygate shock)—was inauthentic and he was the real thing.”

Some other excellent riffs by Wolff along similar media-themed lines here and here (Hollywood Reporter), the fake news about “fake news” (USA Today) and another Hollywood Reporter gem, an interview with Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

Whatever you think of Trump—and I don’t think much of him at all—what’s been truly astonishing is to see how the establishment media continues to misunderstand and misinterpret what’s truly behind his political rise.

If you want to see Trump serve no more than one term—and I consider myself in that group—then read, absorb and understand Wolff’s sharp insights.

But if you prefer to have Trump become a two-term president, then by all means keep blindly applauding the Meryl Streeps of the world.