Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Is Trump Right About The Press?

I recently read an article someone posted on Facebook from Politicusa.com headlined "Trump Says Freedom of the Press Must Go Because 'He's Not Like Other People.'" That's certainly a bit over dramatic. But as a member of the working political press for most of my adult life, and serving as a former elected official, I can certainly understand Trump's frustration with a "free press" that refuses to tell the entire truth, or adhere to journalistic ethics when it doesn't suit their political agenda. 

Obama took control of the press early on by restricting press access of journalists who disagreed with him and his policies — and access is the lifeblood of the press. By doing so, he dictated not only the political agenda from that point forward but the press coverage of it as well. That lesson wasn't lost on Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders. or the Democratic establishment as a whole. That also has a lot to do with why the FBI investigations of Hillary or the riots at Trump rallies by Bernie supporters paid by George Soros aren't getting a lot of Lamestream Media (LSM) coverage. Meanwhile, every outrageous Trump utterance gets major media attention and anything positive he does is ignored. It's why his daughter gets peppered with questions about her father's attitude towards women, while no card-carrying member of the LSM would ever dream of asking Chelsea Clinton that very same question. 

The LSM has become little more than the Extreme Left's Press Office. It's why Political Correctness, Black Lives Matter, the Muslim and Mexican invasions have all been shoved down America's collective throat along with Travon Martin, Freddie Gray, and Michael Brown while Kate Steinle was pointedly ignored.

The six questions every ethical journalist is supposed to answer in an unbiased manner in any news story are "who, what, when where, why and how." After answering those in a factual manner, the reader should be able to make up his or her own mind about the subject matter. When was the last time you read a so-called "news" story that wasn't slanted in one direction or another?  And to be fair, the right wing press is just as bad. However, except for FOX News, the right doesn't have the major mass media exposure of CBS, MSNBC, Politico, et.al.

I often wonder where the Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's of today's press are. Because the media coverage is so absolutely politically biased, Trump thinks libel laws need to be reformed, making it easier to sue. However, those laws are written in such a way that a "public figure" such as Trump or your local public official can't sue for libel or slander (Williams v. NY Times) — no matter how inaccurate, untrue, intentionally slanted and/or blatantly biased a story is, unless they can prove "intentional malice" beyond a shadow of a doubt — which is exceptionally difficult. 

Having been on the receiving end of obvious intentional distortions and half truths from a certain member of the local press, and who's editor refused to exercise any kind of ethical restraint, I certainly understand Trump's frustration. It became my policy to not even talk to that reporter, but to have questions emailed and the answers sent back the same way. That way I had a record of exactly what was asked and how it was answered. 

Based on my own personal experience on both sides of the media fence, both as an elected official, and as a political columnist, Editor and Publisher I agree with loosening up the libel laws to some extent. Making it easy to sue for any story critical of a public figure, would be going way overboard. However, there is only one allowable and recognized defense in a libel suit The Truth. 

In my opinion, making the press responsible for telling the truth or paying for their obvious bias would be a healthy start to restoring true ethics in journalism. Editorial commentary belongs on the OP/ED page, not the front page, where sadly, it now resides more often than not.