Category Archives: media news

Trump keeps making media the ‘story’

I long have considered it a terrible journalistic sin for the media to become part of the story they are covering.

I worked in the media for nearly four decades and I managed over that span of time to steer clear of any discussion of an issue I was covering. Occasionally an organization that employed me would get entangled in the story; they would manage to wriggle themselves free.

The Age of Trump has produced an entirely different dynamic.

He labels the media the “enemy of the people.” His followers buy into it. They demonstrate in front of cable, broadcast and print reporters seeking only to do their job.

It’s getting weird to watch the news these days and hear all these references to cable networks involved so deeply in the covering of current events. For instance:

  • Fox News Channel has been banned from Democratic primary presidential debates because it has become a virtual arm of the Trump administration. Its commentators are known to be in constant communication with Donald Trump, reportedly offering policy advice to the president.
  • CNN, MSNBC are on the other end of the spectrum. Their commentators take great delight in chastising their colleagues at Fox. Meanwhile, Fox fires back at their competitors/colleagues. Oh, and the president hangs “fake news” labels on all media that report news that he finds disagreeable.

It all reminds of an athletic event where the attention turns to the referee. You want to concentrate on the athletes, not the individuals who discern whether they’re breaking the rules.

We’re concentrating increasingly on the media reporting of the issues at hand, and less so on the actual issues that are being discussed.

It’s a distressing trend that appears — to my way of thinking — to have no possible exit for the media.

Trump, Fox News form frightening alliance

Presidents of the United States have enjoyed cordial relationships with the media over the past 200 years of our republic.

John F. Kennedy was pals with Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. Ronald Reagan and Walter Cronkite were known to be quite friendly. There have been others, too.

Have any of them, though, sought actual policy advice from media pundits the way Donald J. Trump has reportedly done with Fox News Channel anchors and other on-air personalities?

There is a certain strangeness that crosses the line into frightening about the Trump-Fox relationship. It is unseemly, particularly given the “fake news” tag the president plasters on other news organizations, be they print or broadcast.

This peculiar alliance has prompted the Democratic National Committee to ban Fox from hosting any of the planned Democratic primary presidential debates coming up later this year. DNC chairman Tom Perez made it clear: Fox has become entirely too intertwined with the Trump administration to be considered a fair and impartial media organization. So the DNC won’t allow Fox to participate in the party’s series of debates.

When a Fox News talking head, Sean Hannity, takes the microphone at a Trump campaign-style rally, he crosses the line from an ostensible “journalist” to becoming a campaign flack.

There can be little doubt, therefore, about the correctness of the DNC decision to shut Fox News out of the party’s nominating process.

DNC slams door in Fox News’s face

This story gives me a mild case of dyspepsia.

I’ll struggle through it and suggest, though, that the Democratic National Committee is rightfully angry with the Fox News Channel. Thus, the DNC has decided that Fox News will not play host to any of the party’s presidential joint appearances scheduled for this year and next.

The other major cable and broadcast networks will be allowed to present questions to the candidates during their debates. Fox, though, is out of the game.

The DNC is angry over Fox’s amazing relationship with the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump. Indeed, the president himself has cozied up to the network’s prime-time and early-morning stars by showering gratuitous praise on them while denigrating and disparaging the work done by the other so-called “fake news” outlets.

Trump has become a semi-regular guest on Sean Hannity’s talk show, allowing Hannity to slobber all over himself in praise of the president. To be honest, I find it shameful that Hannity has been allowed to grovel as he does at the president’s feet. He even took the microphone at a Trump campaign-style rally a while back, interjecting himself directly into a partisan event.

“Fox & Friends,” the network’s early-morning gabfest has been shameless in its fawning over Trump. The president reciprocates to his pals, most notably Steve Doocy, one of “F&F”‘s co-hosts.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez has declared that Fox has become a de facto arm of the Trump administration. Therefore, the DNC has determined that the network cannot be a fair and impartial participant in activities relating to the Democratic Party’s presidential nominating process.

According to The Hill: In a statement, Fox News senior vice president and Managing Editor Bill Sammon said the network hoped the DNC would reconsider, citing the network’s journalists Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, “all of whom embody the ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism.”

“They’re the best debate team in the business and they offer candidates an important opportunity to make their case to the largest TV news audience in America, which includes many persuadable voters,” Sammon said in an emailed statement.
I’ll acknowledge that this decision troubles me. Fox does have some first-class journalists who do good work for the network. They are being undermined and undercut by their bosses and by their colleagues at Fox who pander shamelessly at the feet of the president.

My indigestion will go away over time. If only Fox would recognize the mistake it makes when it allows its on-air personalities to act as if they are on the government payroll.

Time of My Life, Part 26: They kept me humble

I operated under a number of principles during more than 30 years in daily print journalism. I always sought to be fair; accuracy was critical.

I also never took myself more seriously than I took my craft.

The readers of the newspapers where I worked all served as great equalizers. I started my newspaper reporting career full time in 1977 at the Oregon City (Ore.) Enterprise-Courier; I gravitated in 1984 to the Beaumont Enterprise in Texas; and then in 1995 I moved on to the Amarillo Globe-News.

All along the way I contended with readers who shared a common quality. They generally lived in the communities we covered. Thus, they had skin in the game; they had vested interests in their cities and towns.

So if I wrote something with which they disagreed and they took the time to call me to discuss their disagreements I tended to take them seriously.

I tried to learn something about the communities where I worked. Readers often were great teachers. They would scold me. They would chide me. They mostly were respectful when they disagreed with whatever I wrote, how I reported a story or offered an opinion on an issue the newspaper had covered on its news pages.

I always sought to return the respect when they called.

To be sure, not everyone fit that description. More than few of them over all those years were visibly, viscerally angry when they called to complain. I tried to maintain a civil tongue when responding to them. I’ll be candid, though, in admitting that at times my temper flared.

I usually didn’t mind someone challenging the facts I would present in a news story, or in an editorial, or in a column. I did mind individuals who would challenge my motives, or ascribe nefarious intent where none existed.

And every once in a great while I would a reader challenge my patriotism and even my religious faith. That’s where I drew the line.

However, over the span of time I pursued the craft I loved from the moment I began studying it in college I sought to maintain a level of perspective. I took my job seriously. I always sought to remember that all human beings are flawed.

It kept me humble.

An abuse of presidential power?

I want to share a brief item posted on Facebook by Robert Reich, a fiery critic of Donald J. Trump. Reich writes:

Another impeachable offense. Trump personally tried to block AT&T’s merger with Time Warner as retribution for CNN’s coverage of him, according to a new report. In meetings with his advisors, he demanded that the Department of Justice’s antitrust division to stop the merger. The move would have also been a huge victory for Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News and viewed the AT&T-Time Warner as a threat to his business.

If these reports turn out to be true, this would be a clear violation of the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of the press — conspiring to block a merger for the sole purpose of limiting press coverage. We must not become inured to this unconstitutional behavior.

What do we make of that? Reich, a former labor secretary during the Clinton administration, believes the president of the United States has interceded in direct violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

We’ve been hearing a lot in recent days and weeks about “conspiracy to obstruct justice,” about “alleged collusion with Russian operatives” who attacked our electoral system.

We now might start hearing more chatter about “abuse of presidential power.”

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee has launched an expansive investigation into an array of questions regarding Donald Trump’s conduct as president of the United States.

The committee’s agenda is overflowing.

Off to the races with public radio station KETR-FM

Well, we have a launch of a new project involving, um . . .  me.

KETR-FM has posted my first essay for its website. You can read it here.

I chose to comment on the Texas teacher pay increase that’s now under consideration in the Texas Legislature. The Senate is poised to approve a $5,000 annual raise for public school teachers; senators will send it to the House. If the House approves it, the issue goes to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his expected signature.

I am thrilled to be part of this new endeavor. My association now is with Texas A&M University/Commerce and its radio station, which is affiliated with National Public Radio.

It’s a whole new gig for me. I want to give thanks to KETR news director Mark Haslett for giving me a chance to offer some perspective through the radio station.

I feel as though I’ve been given a fresh chance to pursue an aspect of a craft that gave me many years of enjoyment.

Media are ‘all Democrats, all liberals’? Eh?

Joseph DiGenova is sounding like a crackpot.

The former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia is a frequent contributor to the Fox News Channel, the conservative-leaning cable network that gives Donald Trump all the support it can muster.

DiGenova is right at home with the network.

Yet he goes on the air and declares there’s a “civil war” commencing in the United States. Then, in a fit of hilarious irony, he declares that the media are “all Democrat” and “all liberal.” He claims the media are hell bent on destroying Donald Trump and his presidency.

Do you see the irony?

DiGenova is a contributor to a key player in what conservatives like to call “the mainstream media.” Yep, I consider Fox to be part of the media “mainstream,” given the network’s popularity among a large segment of Americans.

So, why is DiGenova blathering about the media being “all Democrat”?

No, sir. They are not!

You never can take it ‘all back’

Social media have their good points . . . I suppose.

However, I consider it to be a mostly negative influence on our national mood, not to mention the quality of our political discourse.

Whatever the medium — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google . . .  whatever — social media has become the wave of the present, never mind the future.

I want to look briefly at Twitter.

Entertainment and sports celebrities, and politicians fire these messages out via Twitter. Occasionally they regret them immediately. Given the nature of Twitter, though, an “immediate” retraction isn’t quick enough. Whatever it is these folks say via Twitter goes out in a serious nano-second jiffy. Boom! Gone! Just like that!

I laugh out loud when I read how those celebrities and pols take down their comments immediately. I want to yell:

Too late, sucker! It’s out there! You lose!

Do you remember when Donald Trump fired off that tweet that concluded with that non-word, “covfefe”? The White House took it back, except that it’s still the subject of comedians’ punchlines.

The late Claude Duncan was a dear friend and colleague, as well as a brilliant writer and thinker. He once told me that you “cannot unhonk the horn.” He didn’t envision social media when he offered me that bit of wisdom.

However, that statement never has been truer than it has become since the arrival of social media.

Perhaps that explains why the president of the United States — the unofficial Twitter Maven in Chief — never takes anything back. The most outrageous statements that flew into cyberspace from his Twitter account remain out there. They are uncorrected. He doesn’t pull ’em back. He says these things and, well . . . that’s it! Take it or leave it!

That doesn’t excuse the president’s bizarre use of that social medium to get his message out there. However, I suppose his reluctance to take anything back is a harsh realization that what flies out there is, um, out there for keeps.

What’s with this Sen. Klobuchar ‘toughness’?

What the hell is going on here? Media reporting keeps harping about how “tough” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a declared Democratic Party candidate for president, is on her staff.

Now there’s this bit: She supposedly berated a staff member for failing to bring eating utensils; thus, Klobuchar was “forced” to eat a salad with — get this! — a comb.

A comb? What?

This social media gossip is getting weirder by the day.

I shudder to think what we’re going to hear about all the candidates once this 2020 campaign gets really heated up.

Hold on, folks. It’s gonna get bumpy. Real bumpy!

Sorehead critics are few, still just annoying

My life as a full-time blogger has been on a mostly uphill trajectory. Indeed, I am enjoying this gig almost as much as I enjoyed writing for newspapers — and got paid for it!

There is one aspect of blogging, though, that continues to stick in my craw. Don’t misunderstand me: I am not choking on it; it’s just a tad annoying.

You know the type of individual who cannot give you credit for anything? These are the folks you know who are quick to criticize but who just cannot find it within them to say a good word when you say or do something with which they agree.

Among the folks who read this blog I am blessed with a few of those types of critics. I’ll call ’em “soreheads,” because I cannot think of a more apt term to describe them.

Yeah, this is a mostly political blog. I wear my bias on my sleeves, on my chest, pasted to my forehead . . . you name the place, it’s there. I won’t apologize for it. My bias is who I am. It’s what I believe. It is where I’ll stand.

But the blog also deals with what I like to call “life experience,” which by definition is about as broad a topic as you can find. I like writing about family, my pet(s), places I’ve seen, people I’ve met, things I’ve done.

Those posts draw occasional comment from readers. They aren’t always fawning praise. Readers might see something in these posts that trigger a unique thought, which they’ll share.

Do any of the soreheads respond to those posts? Not on your life! They prefer to wait for the next tart comment I’ll put out there that looks critically at — oh, let’s see — the president of the United States. 

That’s when they pounce. Sometimes they pounce hard.

Am I tempted to block them? No. I’m not. I want their comments out there. Sometimes they provoke debate among other readers of that post. They occasionally get entangled with other High Plains Blogger readers. I usually resist weighing in on those exchanges. Instead, I have what only can be described as an out-of-body experience. It’s kinda fun, if you want to know the truth.

None of this is intended to cry on anyone’s shoulder. I’m an old man these days. I’ve had my share of beefs and arguments with those who disagree with me. I once had a Texas judge threaten to sue me over some commentary I wrote about what I perceived to be a conflict of interest that involved the judge.

I just want to re-state for the umpteenth time that blogging is a gas. I am having the time of my life . . . even with the soreheads looking over my shoulder.