The Demise of Authentic Journalism

I have written extensively about the failure of religion, in my view, to be an agent of change in a world which is content to put capitalism, political ideology and, yes, racism, sexism and homophobia, among others, in front of the apparent dictate given by God to "do to others as you would have them do to you." The so-called "Golden Rule," which is found in the Christian Bible in both the books of Matthew and Luke, is rather universally ignored.

But there is another failure which is as sad and as dangerous as is the lapse of Christian values within Christianity, and that is, authentic, unbiased reporting. I had always thought that journalism was supposed to be the vehicle of and for truth. Journalists were charged to be "objective" and to leave their personal feelings out of the truth they were supposed to seek.

For years, however, journalism has fallen short in my view, - choosing in too many cases to support this country's government's tendency to support racism. While great evangelists, such as the Rev. Billy Graham and others ...could have made a serious dent in the Christian acceptance and support of white supremacy and its teaching that segregation was the will of God, they didn't; history shows that they either supported racism, using theology as their justification, or they simply remained silent. Speaking out against racism was too dangerous; those who believe in racism from the core of their beings have also been bullies and have threatened life and limb of those who oppose them.

Perhaps it is that same fear of being bullied that has kept too many journalists either silent or complicit in keeping white supremacy as part of the value system of America. It has just been easier to go along just to get along.

But the excuse is not acceptable, especially given the values of journalism. Journalist objectivity is supposed to be the reason there can and will be truth in the midst of lies, why there can be a jolt to complacency when injustice and wrongdoing is clearly evident.

These thoughts came to me as I watched the clip of Rob Reiner on the "Morning Joe" show on Thursday. Reiner and the Morning Joe crew were discussing Donald Trump's ascendancy to the position of the presumptive GOP nominee for president, and Reiner said that many of Trump's supporters were racist.

Reiner's rant began when he said, "The words that have been flung out from his mouth are insane. If he was not a celebrity, if Donald Trump was not a celebrity, the words that come out of his mouth, you'd see a guy in the park, a lunatic in a park on a soapbox, and you'd walk right by him. But the fact that he is a celebrity, all of a sudden, we're all interested."

Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski didn't like that so much, saying that they'd "tried" to pin Trump down in interviews which had proved to be difficult, an argument which did not hold much water with me. I have seen Scarborough and Brzezinski back down as Trump has cut them off, seemingly giving up trying to get Trump to be accountable for his outlandish statements. So, yes, they defended themselves at Reiner's suggestion that perhaps they had not lived up to their responsibilities as journalists, but had, instead, gotten caught up in his celebrity.

But it was when Reiner said the "r" word that everyone on that program tightened up. Mark Halpern, Willie Geist, Scarborough and Brzezinski, all of them, all expressed their disagreement and incredulity that Reiner would say such a thing. Their denial of the truth of Reiner's words stuck, in spite of the fact that Trump has the backing of the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke, and in spite of how he is drawing widespread support of white supremacists.

No television journalist yet, to my knowledge, has had the journalistic authenticity to challenge Trump on his xenophobia. Nobody has made him admit his own racism, which shows in the way he has referred to Mexicans, to illegal immigrants, and to Muslims. Black people he seldom mentions at all. The statement "We're going to make America great again," is a dog whistle, a call to white Americans to fight against the changing of the face of America.

It is getting too ...non-white ...and everyone knows it, but no journalist will admit it or make Trump own up to it.

In an NPR "Morning Edition" interview with Pat Buchanan, who himself ran for president twice, the former GOP presidential candidate said the world has changed for the worse. The interviewer recalled words that Buchanan wrote in that "if we don't get control of our borders, Americans of European descent will be in the minority in a country their ancestors built." He said "I look at Europe ...and I see people... at each other's throats over issues of ethnicity and identity...He bemoaned the fact that there are too many people in the United States. He decried the fact that too many people in this nation do not speak English. "In half the homes in California, people speak a language that is not English in their own homes." He said that a country with no ethnic and linguistic core ...cannot survive. The interviewer asked Buchanan if he understood how his language might be offensive to some and he said he didn't care. (http://www.npr.org/2016/05/05/476844409/pat-buchanan-on-why-he-shares-trump-s-ideas-on-foreign-policy)

He in so many words said it - and the interviewer made him say it - that what he wants is the America he grew up in - a predominantly white country, where most people speak English. That is what Donald Trump is saying and is part of the reason his widespread support.

No television journalist - to my knowledge - has pushed Trump on this. America wants to be a white country, Trump is saying that - but journalists have not been willing to push him on the issue. They have instead appeared to be shocked when the "r" word is used, and have been defensive about their reporting and about the populace which forms the base of most of Trump's support.

Where is objective, truth-seeking journalism? Where are the journalists who will engage in the risk that good journalism might cause? The Rev. Marvin McMickle, decrying the absence of black preachers who will attack injustice, asked the question in his book, "Where have all the prophets gone?" That question might be extended to journalism. Where are the journalists who want to use their gift of writing and truth-seeking for exposing the underbelly of American life?