I am often amazed by how people who are supposed to be sources of information are so often completely clueless about what is going on. Case in point, CNN’s Brian Stelter delivering an editorial—on the ironically named show, Reliable Sources—on attitudes about the news media. This mess could only come from within the media bubble.
My essay from Sunday's show: Addressing why newsrooms & media companies need to take media literacy seriously https://t.co/pSg01Q037f
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) July 10, 2017
He leads off with an infomercial slogan: “The solution to poor journalism is more journalism,” complete with cheesy hand gesture.
Then he proceeds to beat the living hell out of a poorly constructed straw man.
Stelter thinks the primary issue that needs to be addressed in the wake of his profession’s and specifically his network’s feckless incompetence is the scourge of “anti-journalism.” He’s arguing that there are people who want to literally stamp out journalism altogether and alludes to “powerful politicians” who support such an idea. <sarcasm>Who could he possibly be talking about?</ sarcasm>
The solution to poor journalism is more journalism. But some people want less of it, or none of it. They want to stamp out journalism altogether. Do you think I’m exaggerating. I don’t think I am.
Exaggerating wasn’t the word I was thinking of. Out of touch, ignorant, clueless, phony…things like that maybe.
We need to see this for what it is and describe it clearly. There’s a big difference between well meaning people who are skeptical of the press—I count myself among them—and then those people who want to tear down the press, who don’t want it to exist. Those anti-journalism voices are getting louder these days, partly because they’re being amplified by some pretty powerful politicians.
Amid so many shouts of “fake news” media companies producing real news need to speak loudly.
Shouts of “fake news” when media companies like CNN “produce” fake news are not a sign of anti-journalism. (“Producing” is an odd word choice. Media companies should report the news, not “produce” it. The news is the news. It doesn’t need to be manufactured.)
Even the most hardcore Trumpist who revels in bashing the left wing media is still consuming journalism of some sort. They might be seeking out sources that are equally slanted and corrupted in the opposite direction but amid all the media hatred out there I haven’t detected any sentiment about “stamping out journalism” altogether. The closest thing I can think of is the lame brained idea a few people floated about eliminating White House press conferences and replacing them with Presidential tweets. Even that wouldn’t qualify as an elimination of journalism.
Maybe that’s a conclusion they jump to in insular newsrooms where everyone is fretting that a silly wrestling GIF is an incitement to violence.
Here’s how I see it. Skepticism is healthy. Constructive criticism makes news rooms better. This is a pro-journalism point of view. When I make a mistake or I don’t challenge a guest enough or I cut somebody off…your emails, I get’em and they help me improve. But it’s not constructive or pro-journalism to promote resentment and hatred of journalists.
I’ll grant that there is plenty of resentment and hatred for certain journalists and outlets. Stelter completely ignores the indisputable fact that those sentiments exist primarily because those journalists and outlets have promoted resentment of half the country for years years now, both in how they report stories and in which stories they choose to ignore. When his own network was recently busted for knowingly pushing a false, politically motivated narrative, Stelter looks like a fool trying to play the victim here.
Stelter cites some flippant remarks from the fringe, crackpot Governor of Maine as evidence of his imagined anti-journalism movement. Governor LePage obviously resents the media and paints them with a broad brush because they exposed his ignorant and racist comments. Using LePage as an example only shows how weak Stelter’s claims really are. The chances are pretty good that if pressed, even a clown like LePage wouldn’t favor the complete absence of the press.
Remember when President Trump called the media the enemy of the people?
Again, a CNN reporter has no leg to stand on here. Any network (or blog, or newspaper) that knowingly promotes false stories for ratings or clicks or sales really is an enemy of the people. That goes for sycophant propagandists on the right as well.
When politicians disparage real news as fake or when they root for the death of newspapers or when they call reporters names or when they claim we make up stories and sources, they’re not trying to improve journalism. They’re trying to get rid of it.
What about when they root for the death of newspapers who make up stories and sources and promote fake news as real (all while ignoring any real news that doesn’t fit their political ideology)? The death of that sort of media would improve journalism immensely. As far as getting called names? Sack up, Brian.
Stelter’s blindspot is treating all journalism as legitimate. Corrupt journalism that acts as a political propaganda arm for a party or candidate (no matter which side they’re on) should be gotten rid of by exposing it to the light of day and letting people vote with their dollars. That would not only improve journalism, it would save journalism from itself. I know that many on the right are so fed up with left wing journalists skewing the news left that they are seeking out right wing journalists who will skew the news right. I’m on record condemning both. Once journalism gets in bed with any political party, it ceases to be journalism. Cronyism sucks no matter which side benefits.
Stelter—the employee of an exposed purveyor of biased and fake news—then wraps up his argument by blaming media consumers for the failures of his network and professional brethren.
I’m sorry to say these people, these trolls, they’re media illiterate. They don’t really know how newsrooms work.
It’s your fault, America. You just aren’t educated or smart enough to understand how being 99% in the tank for the Democrat party is what real journalism is all about.
I think the real problem here is that the news media is largely America illiterate, and Americans know more about how newsrooms work than the folks at CNN really want them to.
People don’t want to eliminate journalism. They’re starving for it.