What is the reality of the press?
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Does anyone still naively believe the news media represents the best interests of the individual or their community? Better yet, that the press is impartial and trustworthy in their reporting of the news? I think we all know this is simply laughable, as studies have shown the news media is less trusted than Congress, which is saying a lot. Most people today believe newspapers have a political agenda. I know our local Tampa Bay Times certainly does, and their ideology certainly does not match mine. To be fair though, most of the early newspapers founded in the 18th century were established to support a political agenda in this country. For example, they were used to print The Federalist Papers which were intended to help ratify the U.S. Constitution. So, the idea of pushing a political agenda through the news media is certainly not new.
Although the news media is intended to be fair and balanced, the reality is they have to eat and make a profit. As clearly described in the book, "This Town" (by Mark Leibovich), the press ultimately protects the establishment in Washington, DC, whereby lobbyists, politicians, and the news media scratches each other's backs in order to make money. Consequently, all three parties fiercely protect the establishment as it represents their livelihood and control over the country. This is why Donald Trump faces ferocious opposition not just from the news media, but the career politicians of both parties. The press will go so far as to lie, spread unsupported rumors, and attack anyone getting in their way, either publicly or behind the scenes. "Fair and balanced"? Please, don't insult me.
I would prefer the members of the press state their political inclinations up-front so we understand the meaning behind their writings. As for me, I'm a lifelong Republican, something I've never tried to hide. Then again, I do not consider myself a member of the press.
Let's consider "The Journalist’s Creed," as developed years ago by Walter Williams, the first dean of the Missouri School of Journalism. Over one hundred years later, this Creed still defines the principles and ethics of journalism. Let's consider how they apply today though.
The Journalist’s Creed -
"I believe in the profession of journalism." (Okay, fine.)
"I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of their responsibility, trustees for the public; that acceptance of a lesser service than the public service is betrayal of this trust." (Because of today's political bias of the news media, this has become a joke.)
"I believe that clear thinking and clear statement, accuracy and fairness are fundamental to good journalism." (Today, spin rules how reporters write and, as indicated by the polls, the people no longer trust the news.)
"I believe that a journalist should write only what he holds in his heart to be true." (Most journalists today are mercenaries following corporate agendas. In Leibovich's book, reporters are often referred to as "Wise Guys.")
"I believe that suppression of the news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible." (Yet, they steadfastly protect Hillary Clinton by blocking derogatory stories pertaining to her).
"I believe that no one should write as a journalist what he would not say as a gentleman; that bribery by one’s own pocketbook is as much to be avoided as bribery by the pocketbook of another; that individual responsibility may not be escaped by pleading another’s instructions or another’s dividends." (Regrettably, this is from a bygone era, when ethics meant something).
"I believe that advertising, news and editorial columns should alike serve the best interests of readers; that a single standard of helpful truth and cleanness should prevail for all; that the supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service." (It is no longer about public service but, rather, making money and selling the reporter's soul to the highest bidder).
"I believe that the journalism which succeeds best - and best deserves success - fears God and honors Man; is stoutly independent, unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power, constructive, tolerant but never careless, self-controlled, patient, always respectful of its readers but always unafraid, is quickly indignant at injustice; is unswayed by the appeal of privilege or the clamor of the mob; seeks to give every man a chance and, as far as law and honest wage and recognition of human brotherhood can make it so, an equal chance; is profoundly patriotic while sincerely promoting international good will and cementing world-comradeship; is a journalism of humanity, of and for today’s world." (Don't we all wish this was true?)
To illustrate the corruption of today's news media, let's consider the Washington Post, which is now owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder and chairman of Amazon.com, and the third richest person in the world. He is also very much a supporter of Hillary Clinton. Not surprising, earlier this year the paper announced the formation of a special team of twenty people (some call it SWAT) designed to dig up as much dirt on Donald Trump as possible. To their credit, they have found a plethora of things, including the recent Trump "locker room" video. Editorially, the Washington Post is one of Trump's most vocal critics. So much for the Journalist's Creed.
Let us also consider the age and experience of today's reporters. Most are millennials who are trying to make a name for themselves, not seasoned reporters. The more obnoxious the theme and title of the article, the more the reporter gets name recognition.
I sat with the press corps on two occasions at Trump rallies. Both times I felt like I was behind enemy lines. The main street media is a strange breed. Most refuse to stand for a non-denominational invocation or the pledge of allegiance. At both rallies, reporters had their columns written before Trump took the podium. In reading these columns the next day or watching the televised reports, they gave descriptions that didn't jive with what was said at the rallies. So much so, it was like they attended something totally different. In other words, they spread false information only to create a sensational story to feed the political theater of the day.
In doing so, the reporters give the appearance of being above it all. They feel a sense of superiority, both intellectually and physically, over the public. In other words, they honestly believe they know what is best for the public and, as such, are really not interested in their opinions. This narcissistic behavior, I believe, is their Achilles' Heal, and something they are not cognizant of. In assuming this false perception of themselves, they are distancing themselves from the people they are suppose to serve, thereby destroying the public trust. And without trust, circulations and viewerships diminish.
Why do journalists get mad at Donald Trump? Because he doesn't play by their rules. The news media likes to believe they control the news, and become outraged when a political outsider, such as Trump, plays by his own set of rules.
Today we are suppose to believe Mr. Trump is behind in the polls. I contend he is not. Why would the press be so viciously fighting him if he wasn't? Trumpmania is a phenomenon the news media wasn't prepared for, and since they cannot control him, they are determined to destroy him. The public is well aware of this which is another reason why the news media is losing the public's trust and looking elsewhere to get their news.
Bottom-line, the press is more mercenary than defender of the public trust, which is why newspaper subscriptions are down, as is news viewership, and the public feels more comfortable getting their news from social media. If the news media had followed Williams' Creed, they would likely not be in this predicament.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
For Tim’s columns, see: timbryce.com
Copyright © 2016 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.