Evidently, President Trump just wants to hear positive news about himself.
Recent news reports indicate that Trump is given two packets of positive, flattering news stories per day. Earlier this month, Trump’s political organization debuted Trump TV, which will deliver “the real news” that is only positive to Trump and will look like a regular newscast. The show is being shared with over 22 million followers on Facebook and Twitter.
CNN’s Jake Tapper criticized the new show, stating, “Empirically, there’s nothing journalistic about a political organization that exists to support a politician cheering on that politician,” Tapper declared. “It’s not real, and it’s not news and it’s definitely not real news.”
For months, President Trump and his minions have relentlessly bashed the mainstream media as dishonest fake news and the enemy of the American people. It’s a bizarre alternative universe, where Trump and many conservatives believe and trust advocacy journalism news outlets that truly have an agenda and aren’t fair and balanced like talk radio, Fox News, Drudge, Breitbart, and InfoWars, headed by Alex Jones who perpetrated the hurtful hoax that the Sandy Hook massacre was fake.
The New York Times recently used a full page in its Sunday opinion section to list hundreds of lies President Trump had told since being inaugurated. During a press conference, Sarah Huckabee Sanders encouraged reporters to watch an anti-CNN video by conservative undercover video journalist James O’Keefe, who has been accused of deceptive editing and tactics in the past. In June, Trump sunk to a new low with his pathetic tweets about Mika Brzezinski. His new campaign ad released last week touted his accomplishments despite opposition from “enemies,” which included the media.
Decades of conservative vilification has led to general distrust of the mainstream media. Annual polls show that people trust the media as much as they do politicians, trial lawyers, and used car salesmen. Media criticism has served conservatives well, as it rallies the base and helps them win elections.
It’s outrageous and disingenuous to lump reporters who are trying to get at the truth with perpetrators of real fake news who purposely make up stuff to push an agenda or rack up website hits to make money, such as the Macedonian teenagers during the presidential election who made up negative stories about Hillary Clinton to generate web traffic on their sites.
Many reporters risk their lives to get stories. They have been killed, kidnapped, and jailed. They are often threatened and verbally abused at Trump rallies.
Most of the time, the mainstream media is accurate. Yes, they make mistakes, but when they make mistakes, they hold themselves accountable. They adhere to a code of ethics. For every Jayson Blair, Janet Cooke, or Stephen Glass, the prominent reporters who committed the journalistic sins of fabrication or plagiarism, there are tens of thousands of journalists around the world who do things the right way and seek the truth.
In my book, Skewed: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Media Bias, I argue that the conservatives’ assertion of liberal media bias is over exaggerated. Most mainstream media outlets do try to be fair and balanced and get both sides of the story. If there is a bias, it tends to be towards covering controversy, scandals, sensationalism, and favoring stories that will get higher ratings, whether it involves Democrats or Conservatives. President Trump brings much of the negative media criticism on himself by making outrageous, provocative, off the cuff, spontaneous 4 a.m. tweets that often tend to be incorrect.
President Trump seems to only want positive coverage that portrays him in a positive light. He rarely holds press conferences and has gravitated towards interviews by friendly news outlets like Fox News which treat him with kid gloves and softball questions. Many press briefings are now held with cameras banned.
We aren’t North Korea. We need and want a free press that questions authority and acts as a watchdog on government officials. Just because reporters occasionally make mistakes, it doesn’t make them fake news. The vilification of the mainstream media by conservatives, President Trump, and his representatives is dangerous in that it has eroded the public’s trust in reporters who are trying to report the truth. In this media world where Advocacy Journalism like conservative talk radio, Fox News, Breitbart News, and now “Trump TV” thrive, we need mainstream media outlets that are trying to report fairly and accurately.
Larry Atkins is the author of Skewed: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Media Bias (Prometheus Books). He teaches Journalism at Temple University and Arcadia University. Email: larryLTatkins@aol.com . Twitter: @larryatkins4 . This is a revised and updated version of an Op-Ed that he wrote for The Seattle Times.