Self-awareness, where is thy sting?
One unanticipated pathway my career has undertaken is the heightened coverage of our media complex and the ethical issues with our journalistic brethren. The perpetual issues the press puts on display could be disheartening or enraging for some, I suppose, but I take a position of finding mirth in their travails with ethics. I just have to laugh and give a shake of the head in response most of the time.
That reaction was brought up when I peered over the latest offering from Reliable Sources, the latest newsletter from CNN’s Hall Monitor, Brian Stelter. In the new issue Brian turned over a segment to the normal editor of his mailing, Robert McLean, and the announced look into the future of a Biden America is worthy of any eye-roll gif to be found. To give a sense of the warped sensibility there, allow me to serve up choice cuts from McLean’s literary brisket.
My calling to journalism has always been rooted deeply in the idea that an informed electorate is a safeguard against despotism and would-be tyrants. Capable journalists report facts — key to understanding the world around us — without spin or putting their thumbs on the scale of opinion.
Based just on the past 4 years we can assume this to be an admission of sorts that there are no capable journalists at his network. Spin, and scale weighting, are the preferred methods of his contemporaries in Atlanta.
The person whose job it is to defend the Constitution — and by default a free press — labeled us as “enemy of the people.” We’ve been harassed, assaulted, and even had to evacuate our offices after bomb threats, all spurred by the rhetoric of a US President desperate to cast doubt on objective reality.
Here is the brave firefighter narrative we have come to expect. Note the lack of acknowledgment of any such activity or behavior from the other side. It would probably be bad form to mention the times Fox News personalities had protestors at their private residences or were assaulted during riots last year. I’m certain I would be out of line to recall when CNN Center was overrun by Black Lives Matter demonstrators. Wonder how Donald Trump spurred those events.
But despite President Trump’s best efforts to distort reality, we in the press have continued our jobs unabated. We covered the first impeachment – and the second. We have counted every life lost to the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve exposed misinformation, including from Trump, all the way through Tuesday night.
Hard to absorb a lecture on distorted reality from the network that pumped the Russian collusion hoax for years. When it comes to doing your jobs, your network — and many others in journalism — abjectly refused to do your jobs regarding the Hunter Biden story. You even resorted to misinformation in doing so, insisting that the story was rooted entirely in Russian propaganda without a single piece of evidence to support the claim. CNN eventually had to admit the story was valid; conveniently after the election had been held.
I’m hopeful that the war on truth ends with Wednesday’s inauguration. President-elect Biden has already signaled far more support for a free press than President Trump and his administration ever did.
As combative as Donald Trump was with reporters you can not cite instances where he was attempting to shut down a free press. Meanwhile, Robert, your colleague Oliver Darcy is currently campaigning to have rival cable news networks shut down by cable providers. Tell me, in all honesty, how that is not a greater threat to a free press?
While I’m relieved our next President has signaled support for a free press, I know that he and his administration’s leaders will be annoyed with some of the coverage in the coming years. That’s how it is supposed to work. I know that capable journalists will cover Biden as aggressively as they covered Trump, Obama, Bush and every previous administration.
This is pure folly. Donald Trump experienced an immediate and perpetual barrage of negative reporting from the press, not an annoyance with ‘some of the coverage’. Ahead of taking office Trump was already being roundly criticized; with Biden we have had expensive reports on his socks, the food he eats, and his dogs. To say Biden will be covered just as aggressively is nothing short of laugh-track worthy comedy.
Truth has been shrouded by Trump’s lies for four years. I don’t know what Biden will do. But I know that the press will continue to report facts, point out lies and inform the American electorate — as we always have. That’s the job.
The way McLean chooses to elide the press, and his network, trafficking in lies as well those 4 years shows there will be no improvement to be expected. Consider all the bombshells during Russian collusion which amounted to nothing. Recall how Brett Kavanaugh was denied basic judicial rights as manufactured testimonies were broadcast as facts. Look back at all of the misinformation peddled by the press during last year’s pandemic.
CNN delivering this speech on facts is only palpable when looked at in one fashion. They can speak authoritatively on lies because they are proven experts on the topic.