Category Archives: media news

Congratulations to the media for standing tall

Newspapers across this great nation have spoken with one voice. They have spoken not just on behalf of those who publish the printed word, but also for those who speak to Americans through various broadcast media.

I am proud that one of the newspapers where I worked for about 11 years joined the chorus that stands up to those on the right and the far right who have declared the media to be the “enemy of the people.”

The Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise spoke out. They did so acknowledging what many of us know already: The media are the people’s ally, not their enemy.

Read the Enterprise’s editorial here.

Donald J. Trump has led the “enemy” call. He rails that the media are purveyors of “fake, fake, disgusting news.”

As if this president is the only man who’s ever had to deal with criticism. All of his predecessors — Democrat and Republican — have licked the wounds inflicted by criticism, some of it harsh. Did they declare the media to the people’s enemy? No. They took their lumps and went about the business of trying to govern.

The media’s role is clear. It is to demand accountability from those who purport to do things on the public’s behalf, but who on occasion end up doing things to the public.

I regret that another newspaper where I worked during my journey through print daily journalism — the Amarillo Globe-News — chose not to join the chorus. That’s their call. I wish the editors there had made another choice.

This campaign was initiated by the Boston Globe. More than 200 newspapers around the country joined the Globe. They have spoken as one. I am proud of them all.

As the Enterprise said in its editorial: A free and vigorous news media is not just a good idea in America or any other country. It’s vital to helping people create the kind of lawful, prosperous society they want, helping ensure that injustice or corruption are exposed instead of excused. Anyone like our president who calls American journalists the “enemy of the people” is undermining this cornerstone of democracy.

No ‘guarantee’? So, what is the problem?

I feel the need to give White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders the benefit of the doubt on her latest skirmish with the press corps/”enemy of the people.”

She was pressed this week about whether she could “guarantee” that there would be no tape recordings of Donald J. Trump using the n-word in conversation.

Sanders said she couldn’t “guarantee” such a thing. Some in the media have gone a bit catatonic in their response to what I thought was a realistic answer. They have wondered how or why she couldn’t — or wouldn’t — offer a direct answer to a direct question.

Consider a couple of factors here.

First, as press secretary, Sanders very well might not know every tiny detail of every little occurrence within the West Wing.

Second, she serves in a presidential administration led by a pathological liar. Donald Trump cannot tell the truth to anyone, or so it appears, at least to chumps like me. I am quite certain Sanders didn’t intend to question the president’s veracity by making her “no guarantee” declaration.

Sure, Trump denies ever using the n-word. He says it’s not in his vocabulary. Do you believe him? I … do … not!

However, her answer sounded to my ears to be about the most honest response she has offered while speaking for the president.

Media ‘not supposed to be the story’

CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is a man to whom I can relate. More or less.

He made an appearance last night on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and asserted that the media aren’t supposed to be the story they are covering. Indeed, Acosta has become a media “celebrity” because of his frequent public clashes with White House press officials — notably press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Plus, Donald J. Trump continues to single out Acosta and CNN as purveyors of what he calls “fake news.”

The Hill reports: “Do you worry that the president points at y’all so much and there’s a natural need to respond as a human being that you end up being the story when that’s not really the goal of your journalism?” Colbert asked Acosta on the CBS “Late Show” host Wednesday night.

“We’re not supposed to be the story, you know. That’s not why I’m out there,” Acosta responded. “I get accused of that from time to time, and my attitude is ‘Listen, I’m allowed to care about this country as much as anybody else.'”

I, too, lament the way the media have become part of the story. In a perfect world — and this one has never been perfect — the media would report the news and remain in the shadows. I liken it to the sports referee who no one notices, until the ref does something stupid or otherwise noteworthy.

The president chooses to make the media the story by continuing to hammer them over the way they cover his administration.

He won’t simply allow the media to do their job. He won’t accept that not all news is positive. He doesn’t recognize the media’s role in holding public officials accountable. Therefore, he ratchets up the volume whenever he fires off those tweets accusing the media of being the “enemy of the people.”

That all said, the notion that Acosta would agree to appear on a late-night TV show with a host who has been notably critical of the president suggests that he isn’t exactly walking the walk in terms of seeking anonymity.

His message about the media’s role — as the chronicler of events — is on point. The media mustn’t become “the story,” and that precludes CNN’s chief White House reporter from appearing on a national TV show.

Alex Jones: no free-speech martyr

Alex Jones has been kicked off some social media platforms.

I have to offer a huge round of applause for those platforms that have seen fit to abide by the standards they set for those who use them. Jones didn’t do that. He’s gone at least from those particular venues.

Who is this clown? He’s a talk-show blowhard and noted conspiracy theorist. His infamy grew exponentially when he alleged that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn. — where 20 first- and second-graders and six teachers were gunned down in 2012 — was a “hoax.” He said the grieving parents were actors brought in by anti-gun activists to carry the cudgel for disarming the American public.

He is a monstrous purveyor of hate speech.

Facebook, Apple, Spotify and YouTube all have banned Jones from using their platforms to spew his garbage.

Jones’s response has been predictable. He says the First Amendment guarantees him the right to speak his mind. No matter how vile his thoughts might be.

Hold on, buster.

This argument reminds me of discussions I had throughout my journalism career with individuals who would submit letters or other commentary that I found unsuitable for publication on the opinion pages I edited.

They would say, “But what about free speech?” My response was the same. “You are free to purchase and run your own newspaper and then you are free to publish whatever you want. We have rules and standards and your submission falls short of them.”

So it is with Alex Jones’s hate speech. The social media platforms are within their own constitutional rights to set standards that those who use them must follow. Jones crossed many lines with his hideous pronouncements.

He’s still able to spew his filth. The U.S. Constitution allows it. He simply is no longer able to do so using the venues whose owners and managers have done what they should have done long ago.

They cut him off.

Trump tweets making our heads spin

I fear that I am going to lapse into a Linda Blair impersonation, the one in the film “The Exorcist” where her head spins round and round.

Donald J. Trump’s head-spinning reversal of previous lies about a meeting with Russians who reportedly were offering dirt on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign has my head about to spin right off my shoulders.

The president denied the meeting was called to talk about his campaign against Hillary. He then reportedly dictated a statement that came out under Don Trump Jr.’s name; the statement said the meeting dealt with the adoption of children. That was a lie!

Now the president say, yep, the meeting was called to talk about the Clinton campaign.

He lied. Now he’s telling some version of the truth?

The question now centers on what special counsel Robert Mueller is going to do with this information.

Is the noose tightening? Is the special counsel headed into a blind alley? Have we caught the president in the lie to end all lies? Might there be a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Emolument Clause, which prohibits presidents from accepting gifts from foreign governments?

I’ll circle back to something I was taught when I was a youngster: Tell the truth all the time and you won’t have to worry about the lies catching up with you.

Pain in the ass? Yes! Proudly!

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has delivered a stunning rebuke to Donald Trump’s bogus and idiotic assertion that the media are “the enemy of the people.” Thus, I hereby nominate the South Carolina Republican’s retort as “Quote of the Year.”

Graham was talking to reporters today in South Carolina when he said the following, according to The Hill:

“I think the press in America is a check and balance on power,” Graham said Monday afternoon in South Carolina. “I think sometimes you get tribal like the rest of the country. Sometimes you can be a pain in the ass, but you’re not the enemy of the people. As a matter of fact, without a free press, I wouldn’t want to live in that country.”

“But you can be a pain in the ass,” he reiterated while laughing. “But you’re supposed to be.”

The president repeated his view of the press on Sunday morning, tweeting to his 53.5 million followers that he is “providing a great service” by explaining to Americans that the “fake news” media is the enemy of the people, adding that the Fourth Estate “can cause war” without specifying what he meant.

There you have it: “Sometimes you can be a pain in the ass.”

That’s the media’s role. To put it another way, as many in the media say about the mission of their craft: Their role is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Presidents and other politicians of both political parties have known all along that the media’s role isn’t to glorify politicians. It is to hold them accountable on behalf of the public they take an oath to serve.

The most notable exception, of course, happens to be the current president of the United States.

Frightening.

Why endorse in primaries?

A newspaper editorial endorsement for a political primary election brings to mind a decision I made several years before the end of my own journalism career.

It was that we shouldn’t make such an endorsement unless a primary race was tantamount to election, meaning that there would be no contested two-party primaries for that particular office.

The endorsement that got me thinking about the issue came from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which recommended former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in that state’s Republican primary.

Read the endorsement here.

It wasn’t always that way. I used to work for newspapers in Beaumont, Texas and in Oregon City, Ore. We made primary endorsements at those newspapers.

Then I moved to Amarillo to become editorial page editor of the Globe-News. After a period of time, I persuaded the publisher that primary endorsements were not nearly as relevant as general-election endorsements. So, why do them, especially when the candidates had another election in the fall?

Amarillo is in the middle of heavily Republican territory. In many instances, particularly in Randall County — which comprises the southern half (roughly) of Amarillo, Democrats damn near never run candidates for local offices. That means the GOP primary means the winner is all but assured of election, barring a surprise and successful write-in campaign.

We elected then to endorse only in those primary races featuring contests in just one party. That meant the Republican Party.

I came to realize that primaries are essentially a political party function. They are run by the political parties. The local party chairs are in charge of managing the ballots and ensuring that all the fees are paid.

If by chance there would be contested primaries in both major parties, we would take a pass on offering a recommendation in the primary; we preferred to wait for the general election campaign to make our recommendation known.

That was then. I now wonder whether newspaper endorsements mean anything any longer. Texas Gov. Rick Perry decided in 2010 to forgo any editorial board interviews with Texas newspapers; he was angry at the way newspapers treated him. The Globe-News that year endorsed former Houston Mayor Bill White, as did the vast majority of Texas newspapers. Gov. Perry won big anyway.

Donald Trump got few newspaper endorsements in 2016. You know how that election turned out.

If I had to do it all over again, I think I’d do it the way I decided to do it. No primary endorsements unless a party’s primary meant virtual election to office.

I also might give serious thought to giving up on the idea of offering endorsements for any race … ever!

I mean … what’s the point?

Trump lacks any semblance of decency

When a conservative columnist writes that Donald John Trump will have blood on his hands if more harm comes to journalists, then you might be able to start thinking that the president is on the verge of losing his mind.

Bret Stephens writes for the New York Times. He states: “Donald Trump’s more sophisticated defenders have long since mastered the art of pretending that the only thing that matters with his presidency is what it does, not what he says. But not all of the president’s defenders are quite as sophisticated. Some of them didn’t get the memo about taking Trump seriously but not literally. A few hear the phrase ‘enemy of the people’ and are prepared to take the words to their logical conclusion.”

Read Stephens’s column here

Let’s ponder something for just a moment.

Trump stood before a rally in Pennsylvania this week and hollered hysterically yet again about the “fake, disgusting” media.

I don’t believe the 70-something president suffers from short-term memory loss or dementia. Surely he must remember the recent massacre that killed five people at the Annapolis, Md., newspaper. Certainly he must recall that he sent his “thoughts and prayers” to the victims’ families.

Can he not connect the dots that tie his fiery anti-media rhetoric to the actions of the shooter in Maryland? Sure, the shooter had a specific beef with the Capital Gazette. Would he have acted so violently without the kind of vitriol that’s been flying out of the president’s mouth for the past couple of years? I’m just wondering out loud, man.

I think it’s time I resurrect the time-honored question: Have you no sense of decency, Mr. President?

WH press flack whiffs a home-run pitch

Sarah Huckabee Sanders was served a pitch that she should have hit out of the park. Instead, she whiffed.

It came from CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta, the current chief “enemy of the people,” according to the president and Sanders, his press secretary.

Acosta asked Sanders directly whether she believes as Donald John Trump believes that the media are the “enemy of the people.”

Sanders didn’t take the bait. She didn’t answer the question. She didn’t stand for the right of the media to do their job as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution. She didn’t challenge the notion that the media — which no president has ever liked — is the “enemy.”

The White House press secretary today revealed a potentially shameful side of herself.

See the Sanders-Acosta exchange on the link here.

I don’t know whether Sanders actually believes the crap she defends in the White House press briefing room, or whether she feels some sort of blind fealty to the head of state. Perhaps there’s a third option, that she might fear being humiliated by the president if he perceives that she is straying too far off the marked trail.

Whatever the case, the White House press officer could have assuaged many Americans’ fear that the White House has taken its war against the media to a frightening new level.

She didn’t.

Shame.

Media have become part of ‘the story’

I long have hated the notion of the media becoming part of the story they are covering. Yet that’s what is happening in the current tumult involving Donald J. Trump, the “enemy of the people” and those in the media who love taking pot shots at each other.

CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta, a frequent target of the president’s barbs, fired off this tweet aimed at competitor Sean Hannity, a commentator at Fox News:

Hannity is a propagandist for profit, peddling lies every night. He says he’s just a talk show host, not a journalist. But he’s injecting poison into the nation’s political bloodstream warping public attitudes about the press. I’m confident in the long run the truth will prevail.

Never mind that I happen to agree with Acosta. Hannity is every bit the “propagandist” that Acosta calls him. He is riddled with conflicts of interest, given his professional relationship with Trump’s former confidant, Michael Cohen, and his continuing personal friendship with the president himself.

But, I digress. No need to rehash what you know to be the obvious, which is that I detest Hannity.

Still, I do not like the notion of the media becoming the story in and of themselves. I am a rather old-fashioned sort of guy. I prefer the media simply cover the story to which they are assigned. Report the news. If the subject of their coverage objects to the tone, the tenor or the timing of the story, let ’em rant. Don’t respond. Don’t fire back.

Of course, Trump has ratcheted up the criticism to an unacceptable level. This idiotic mantra about the media being the “enemy of the people” is unhealthy, unAmerican, unpatriotic and totally unacceptable. And for this president, the purveyor in chief of lies and prevarication, to blame others for reporting “fake news” gives hypocrisy a bad name.

That all said, the nature of the media’s role as watchdogs for the public has evolved to a form that makes me quite uncomfortable.