It’s outrageous and disingenuous to lump reporters who are trying to get at the truth with the perpetrators of fake news.
The media finally struck back.
During a White House news conference briefing last week, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders bashed the press for its coverage of the Trump administration — in particular, allegations of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Brian Karem, a reporter for the Sentinel newspapers, interrupted her.
“What you just did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look at it and say, ‘See, once again, the president is right, and everybody out here is fake media.’ And everybody in this room is only trying to do their job.”
Karem’s reaction was long overdue. For months, President Donald 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, such as 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 news conference, 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. On Thursday, Trump sunk to a new low with his pathetic tweets about Mika Brzezinski’s appearance.
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 win elections.
It’s outrageous and disingenuous to lump reporters who are trying to get at the truth with perpetrators of 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 have been threatened and verbally abused at Trump rallies.
Most of the time, the mainstream media is accurate. Yes, reporters make mistakes, but when they do, 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 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 toward covering controversy, scandals, sensationalism, and favoring stories that will get higher ratings, whether it involves Democrats or conservatives. 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.
Trump seems to only want coverage that portrays him in a positive light. He rarely holds news conferences and has gravitated toward 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 MSNBC, conservative talk radio, and Fox News thrive, we need mainstream media outlets that are trying to report fairly and accurately.