Journalism is one of the most distrusted jobs in America, and frankly that’s a deserved result of their coverage of events over the last few decades. With this election, however, journalists have gone out of their way to show that they can control the narrative and not simply report on the events of the present, but alter them.
Look no further than their glowing coverage of Donald Trump in the Republican Primary and how quickly that changed the moment he won the election. Suddenly, they were willing to cover the very things places like RedState and National Review wrote about months before. The scandals, the attitudes, the beliefs that Donald Trump held prior to his run were all suddenly NEWS. Why?
Donald Trump was good for business when he was winning the primaries, state by state. With each victory, the public became more and more fascinated with his candidacy, and the Media was more than happy to feed the public’s curiosity with more and more coverage of him. However, they did so because of the ratings. Not because of any journalistic integrity, but because it sold. The for-profit model of delivering the news made Donald Trump happen.
When he won the nomination, there was money in covering his scandals. He was now forced on the country. Not just by the Media, but they were knowing accomplices in what happened (the Republican Party and its voters are as much to blame for Trump’s candidacy and spectacular failing, but that is a later post).So long as Donald Trump was at the top in the primaries, he was a money maker. Had he fallen behind or dropped out, the ratings would have tanked. Trump was correct in saying that he was the reason the ratings were so high.
But, where is the integrity in purposefully tuning your coverage to maximize ratings over quality of work? The media-cynical of us (the very largest percentage of our readership here at RedState), and the people who look with a bit of remorse at the state of the industry (me and other right-leaning journalists) don’t see anything of actual journalism value in the what the national media has done. The problem is, much like the older, more successful child in the family, the little brothers of the media (local outlets) tend to follow suit. If it works for CNN, why wouldn’t it work for your local TV station or newspaper?
This is why there is such a distrust of the media in the public today: People recognize that the media isn’t reporting the news of the moment, but the news that makes money. In doing the latter, the Media has helped in dividing the nation further along ideological lines, to the point where they report on one thing and half the audience hates them. Then, when they report on something else, the other half of the audience hates them. No one in the audience remembers the stories they loved. They remember the one story they hated and thought confirmed their belief that the Media was corrupt and broken. Thus, they lose trust.
There’s a column at the Columbia Journalism Review that I do encourage you to read, as it does offer a bit of self-reflection in the Media’s part in creating the current the environment in which they now reside. The ending, in particular, is very important to understanding the problem.
Standards and practices define and distinguish us. They are what make journalism journalism. Without them we are just content and opinion and we would quickly vanish in the mix. Losing journalism would be a long-range disaster for the country, worse than anything imagined out of this election.
This year’s presidential campaign has provided a great opportunity to show how important we can be. Independent, fair-minded journalism is desperately needed. We need to find out how to rebuild it everywhere. That’s something we can ask the public to believe in.
We did not have that conversation during the election. We need to have it now.
The problem is that, in the interest of continuing to sell the news, the Media won’t have that conversation. It will continue to act in a manner that emphasizes what sells and ignore just how deeply their coverage has divided their audience. As someone who worked in that industry and who does believe in the idea of reporting fairly and accurately based on facts and not what sells, I deeply regret what it has become. But, I also recognize it’s been going on for longer than I’ve been around, and that it will take more than a couple of posts at a conservative news and opinion site to make any sort of change.
Hopefully, at some point, the Media as we know it will die. The end of 2016 is a good time for it to happen. With all the mistakes that have been made this election cycle, now is the perfect time for there to be some introspection and a change to how things are done. I know it won’t happen, but it’s sometimes nice to dream.