Tag Archives: mainstream media

Journalism takes another step toward irrelevance

It pains me to acknowledge this, but based on what I have just learned, daily print journalism — I am talking about newspapers — has taken another big step toward a dark hole of irrelevance.

The Providence Journal, Rhode Island’s largest newspaper, has announced it no longer will publish editorials. You know, those are the opinion pieces that represent the newspaper’s view on issues of the day.

Here is part of a letter that Journal executive editor Alan Rosenberg wrote to readers:

It’s a decision that we don’t make lightly. But it’s been coming for a long time…

[After the partisan newspapers of the 19th century,] most newspapers abandoned partisanship in their news pages, but kept the idea that they should speak out, in their editorials, on what they perceived as the best interests of their community and country.

But in doing so, they inadvertently undermined readers’ perception of a newspaper’s core mission: to report the news fairly. Our goal in news stories is always to learn, and reflect, the facts of a situation, then report them without bias. Reporters’ opinions, if they have them, have no place in our stories.

But when the newspaper itself expresses opinions on those same subjects, it causes understandable confusion. Readers wonder: Can reporters really do their work without trying to reflect the views expressed in their employers’ name? Can they cast a skeptical eye on a politician their paper has endorsed, or a generous eye on one it has opposed?

The answer is a definite “yes” — but my email since I became executive editor shows that many just don’t buy it.

The Providence Journal is owned by Gannett Corp. What we have here is a display in gutlessness. It is a shameful capitulation to the forces that are slowly but inexorably making daily newspapers irrelevant in the lives of thinking Americans.

I spent the vast bulk of my 36 years in journalism writing editorials and editing opinion pages. We once were committed to providing leadership to communities that used to look for some semblance of guidance from their newspapers. Sure, we had that argument with readers that Rosenberg mentioned about whether news coverage was influenced by newspapers’ editorial policy.

This news out of Providence, R.I., saddens me terribly. It well might get even worse for readers of the last newspaper where I worked on my professional journey, the Amarillo Globe-News. Gannett owns the Globe-News and Gannett has become a cost-cutting master in this era of declining subscribership and advertising.

I hate saying it … but I fear the end of daily journalism in Amarillo, Texas, might be at hand.

Good news offers strength

I am drawing a good deal of strength by much of what I am reading these days, yes, even in this troubling and perilous time.

We’re holed up in our house. We go out only to do essential duties. We watch a lot of TV; I am on the computer a great deal; I am reading lots of material related to the coronavirus pandemic.

I read the bad stuff. I am disheartened and dismayed by the misery and the heartache out there. It normally would send me into an emotional tailspin.

However, the media that Donald Trump loves to demonize, also is giving me reason to keep the faith. They are reporting about the heroism, the unsolicited good deeds being done, the demonstrations of caring and love, the joy of children who get to play games with their parents and their siblings.

I subscribe to three newspapers: the Dallas Morning News, the Princeton Herald and the Farmersville Times. Each of them in every issue I see offers positive news about heroism and outreach. Cable news channels do the same thing. They tell us of the amazing fortitude being exhibited by pent-up Americans who (a) wish for all they’re worth for a return to “normal life” and (b) understand that they must adhere to the rules being laid down by their government.

Broadcast TV is full of public service announcements repeating the mantra: We’re in this together. Our Dallas/Fort Worth network stations give us reason to smile at the news they deliver about the deeds being done to help others.

The cynics in public life — the politicians who have determined that the media are the “enemy of the people” — simply aren’t paying attention to what the media are seeking to do. The media are allowing me to crease my face with a smile.

They are strengthening me for the ongoing battle against a killer.

I want to thank them for that.

Media deserve bouquets, not brickbats

Donald John Trump is so very fond of bashing the media, those whose duty is to report to the public about how well — or poorly — government is functioning.

Yeah, he tosses the occasional compliment, then follows that with the usual rants about “fake news” and “low ratings” and other crap designed to denigrate the Fourth Estate.

I want to sing the media’s praises especially for the way they have been covering the coronavirus pandemic.

I’ve been trying to think back to any story that has dominated our airwaves and our printed pages the way coronavirus outbreak has done. The media, for their part, are covering this crisis about every way imaginable. They are doing so in ways I never would think of were I in a position to assign reporters to cover the story.

Trump’s anger at the media rests, in my mind, on the notion that the media aren’t swallowing the nonsense he spews — and the lies he tells — about the “fantastic” job he and his team are doing. They are seeking to fill in the spaces left open by the president and his team.

Trump says the disease is “under control.” The media go to expert sources who report that, nope, it’s untrue. The disease is far from being controlled, contained or confined.

The media’s reporting of seemingly separate stories are tied in varying ways to the coronavirus crisis.

That’s OK with me. The media are doing the job they are empowered to do. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects them from government interference. Over the generations since the founders wrote the amendment, it has been generally accepted that the Constitution also offers a shield against politicians’ bullying and coercion.

Donald Trump’s constant criticism is blatant form of bullying that cannot be tolerated. He won’t stop the attacks, given that they play well to the ignorant wing of his political base, the know-nothings who believe Trump’s ridiculous assertions that “fake news” is actually false, when in reality it merely is news that isn’t favorable to their hero.

The media are doing a great job covering a story that needs a free press now more than ever.

Time of My Life, Part 47: 9/11 changed the dynamic

Events can shape people’s lives and even influence the direction their careers take.

The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 was a date that changed damn near everything in this country, not to mention the career I had chosen to follow.

I cannot prove this with actual, tangible evidence. It’s an anecdotal thing, to be truthful. But the 9/11 terror attack opened the floodgates for me as an opinion writer and editor.

I was working on 9/11 as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. I got word of the attack from a colleague who stuck his head into my office to ask if I had heard about the plane that had crashed into the World Trade Center.

Well, the rest is history, right?

One element of that momentous day was the absolute flood of issues on which we could comment at the Globe-News. It never stopped after that terrible moment in our history.

There had been times in the years preceding 9/11 when I had to look for issues on which to offer editorial comment. As they say in the news business, “There are good news days and bad news days.” The good news days always gave opinion editors grist on which to comment; the bad days forced us to look for that grist.

The post-9/11 era — which lasted essentially for the duration of my career a dozen years later — often filled me with the greatest dilemma an opinion editor could face: too many topics on which to comment. 

There were a lot of days when I would go to work and have to face a decision. What issue can we set aside for another day? Think about that. I seemed to never face the problem of having to look for ways to fill that space on our opinion page with editorial commentary.

It was a curious phenomenon that I cannot quite explain even to this day. It just happened. The world was changing. The nation went to war against international terrorism. That era spawned issues that demanded leadership from newspapers that at that time were still considered beacons for their communities.

I hated the circumstance that caused that phenomenon to occur. However, I was oddly grateful that it did occur and gave me a treasure trove of topics on which to comment.

Those were the days, man.

Is the president a ‘heartless imbecile’? Yes, but …

You know what they say about things that come after the word “but.” It’s likely to change the nature of what comes before it.

A gentleman I do not know personally, but who reads High Plains Blogger, took me to task for a recent post I wrote about Donald John Trump. This fellow believes I never give Trump any credit for anything.

Actually, I have. I mentioned my stated support of the president’s criminal justice reform ideas and the military strike he launched against Syria. I also mentioned the rare instances in which Trump has acted and sounded “presidential.”

My critic believes I consider Trump to be a “heartless imbecile,” to which I answered: Do I think he’s a “heartless imbecile”? Yep. I’m afraid so … until he proves me wrong. It’s possible, you know.”

Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been nothing short of disastrous. So far, he has been a heartless imbecile, but … here it comes, that could change if Trump would take just a few small steps toward decency.

He could stop blaming all the things that go wrong on his watch on everyone else. He should stop blaming President Barack Obama, for instance, for enacting measures that Trump says incorrectly have slowed down the national response to the pandemic. While he’s at it, he should take ownership of the decision he made to dismantle the National Security Council task force designed exclusively to deal with pandemics — like the one we’re enduring at this moment!

Trump could stop heaping praise on himself and taking credit he doesn’t deserve. He should focus instead solely on the problem at hand and deal forthrightly with those problems.

Trump could actually apologize for the “heartless” and “imbecilic” comments he made about the cruise ship he didn’t want to dock in Oakland, Calif., out of concern that the infected passengers on board would drive up his “numbers.” I know that’s a non-starter, given that Trump doesn’t apologize for anything.

The president needs to act presidential. That would do it. That would compel me to shed much — but not likely all — of my antipathy toward this guy.

Donald Trump needs to stop attacking the media. The men and women who report the news are simply doing their jobs. They do not work for the president and he needs to understand their role in keeping government accountable to the people who pay the bills. You and I are the bosses … not Donald Trump. He works for us.

So, there you have it. The “but” has yet to materialize. It might. I am just not going to wait for it.

Trump resumes feud with media

Well, that was a nice break while it lasted.

Donald Trump took time the other day to offer a good word about the media and their work in covering the coronavirus pandemic. It gave some of us a glimmer of hope that the president was finally beginning to act the part he portrays.

Silly us. He resumed his feud today, blasting the “fake news” the media purportedly conveys. He blasted The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, all of which are great newspapers full of dedicated journalists who do their job to the best of their considerable ability.

None of that matters to this president, who passes judgment on media outlets based on whether they report “positive” news about his administration.

Yep, the feud is back on.

Disgusting.

Do these endorsements really matter?

Joseph R. Biden Jr. is a happy man today.

He received a ringing endorsement from a powerful South Carolina politician who said Biden is the best among the Democratic contenders running for president of the United States.

Rep. James Clyburn, a fellow Democrat, is all in with the former vice president. But I have to ask: Will it really matter?

Clyburn is the senior African American member of Congress. He is a fine fellow, from what I have been able to hear. He packs plenty of clout. It remains unclear to me whether his endorsement of Joe Biden is going to persuade South Carolina Democrats, who appear to be drifting toward Sen. Bernie Sanders in the late stages of the state’s primary campaign, to change their minds.

Which brings me to a significant point. Do endorsements of any nature really bring along votes?

There once was a time when voters waited to read what their local newspaper editorial boards thought about a campaign. They waited to see who the newspaper would endorse. They were motivated for two reasons. They either followed the newspaper’s advice, or — and this is for real — they cast their vote against the candidate the newspaper favored.

These days, with a plethora of information flooding us constantly, 24/7, nonstop, unrelentingly, many voters no longer look to those learned editors’ world views. They make up their minds, seemingly based on the views thrown at them by TV and radio blowhards.

It is becoming an exercise in futility for many politicians and others who get paid to offer their opinions on issues of the day and the candidates who are their champions.

The Dallas Morning News this year has announced it won’t endorse anyone for president. The paper’s editorial board didn’t say it, but my sense is that there is a possible back story borne of frustration that the newspaper would have little impact on its readers’ political leanings. So, why bother? The DMN instead is going to concentrate on the issues it deems critical to the voters and to the candidates who are seeking voters’ support.

I trust that Joe Biden will take James Clyburn’s endorsement seriously. He will ascribe high motivation behind it. Perhaps it’s merited. I will wait along with many other Americans to see if it translates into actual votes in a key primary state that propel the former VP back to front runner status.

What took so long to build has collapsed in virtually no time at all

It took print journalism, chiefly newspapers, nearly two centuries to attain what used to be a virtually exalted status among their consumers.

And yet, the craft has all but collapsed in virtually no time.

What took years to erect has all but vanished in the blink of an eye.

That observation came from a dear friend of mine with whom I used to have a professional relationship when I worked in Amarillo as editorial page editor of the Globe-News. My friend was a freelance columnist; he had a regular day job, but wrote for us because he was good at it. Our professional relationship ended when I left the newspaper in August 2012. Happily, our personal friendship remains intact.

We were visiting the other evening when he made that stunning observation. His point is that newspapers climbed for a long time up a proverbial mountain to attain an important status in people’s homes. Readers of newspapers depended on them for news of their community, of their state, nation and the world around them. If you wanted to know what was happening in the world, you collected your newspaper off the porch, opened it up and spent a good deal of time reading what it reported to you.

We believed what we read. I mean, if it’s in the daily newspaper then it had to be true. As my friend noted, it took a long time for newspapers to achieve that status.

Then it all changed. Rapidly! Dramatically! Newspapers fell with a loud thud!

The Internet arrived. I can’t remember when it happened, but suffice to say it was the equivalent to the “day before yesterday.” Cable TV exploded. Social media burst forth, too.

All of that media took huge bites out of newspapers’ influence in people’s lives. Has print journalism become less reliable, less believable, less credible than before? I do not believe that is the case. Americans are still reading some first-class reporting from major newspapers that remain important purveyors of vital information.

And yet, we hear the president of the United States refer to the media as “the enemy of the people.” Right-wingers blast what they call the “mainstream media.” They accuse newspapers and other legitimate media organizations of peddling “fake news.” The attacks have exacted a terrible toll on newspapers.

The smaller papers, those that tell us about our communities? They are struggling. Many of them — if not most of them — are losing the struggle. The Amarillo Globe-News, my final stop in a career that I loved pursuing, has been decimated by competing media forces and — in my view — by incompetence at the top of its management chain of command.

My friend’s analysis, though, rings so true. It saddens me beyond measure to realize that it has taken so little time for it all come crashing down.

Trump engaged in frontal assault against freedom of the press

Leave it to Chris Wallace, the host of “Fox News Sunday,” a staple of Donald Trump’s favorite news/opinion cable TV channel, to put it in perspective.

Wallace said this to a gathering at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.: “I believe President Trump is engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on freedom of the press in our history.”

Oh, brother, is he ever!

The man who played on his “experience” as a reality TV celebrity host, who once courted the media because they found him, um, entertaining is now launching a full frontal assault on the constitutional guarantee of a free press.

He routinely bullies cable, broadcast and print media representatives. He accuses them of peddling “fake news.” He curries favor with media outlets and then blasts them to smithereens when they don’t do his bidding; Wallace and the Fox News Channel serve as a prime example. Trump has labeled the media as the “enemy of the people” and has applauded right along with the know-nothing faithful who cheer his frightening rhetoric.

Presidents dating back throughout the history of the republic all have noted the adversarial relationship with the media that is built into the presidency. None of them — not until Donald Trump came along — has blathered the kind of incendiary rhetoric toward the media that this president has spewed forth.

As a former full-time print journalist, I — along with many of my former colleagues — take this kind of treatment personally. Now that I am writing for myself, I still take it personally.

Moreover, I continue to salute and honor the great work that media organizations of all stripes continue to do in reporting the goings-on regarding this presidential administration.

The good news for all of them — and the rest of us — is that Donald Trump won’t be president forever. He’ll be gone from the halls of power and will no longer be able to bully the media.

I am waiting for that moment of deliverance from this attack on our essential press freedom.

Fox to POTUS: We don’t work for you!

I’m in a shout-out frame of mind.

Thus, I want to say “good show!” to some of Fox News Channel’s top guns for firing back at Donald Trump’s bitching about what he seems to suggest is a growing “disloyalty” among Fox News’s talking heads.

Longtime journalist Brit Hume brusquely told Trump: “We don’t work for you.” Indeed, the network does not work for Trump, although a few of its commentators occasionally act as if they do.

Trump, though, is griping about the news coverage that Fox is providing.

As The Daily Beast reported about Trump’s recent Twitter-tantrum: The president concluded by complaining that Fox News was “letting millions of GREAT people down” and that he needs to “start looking for a new News Outlet” since the one-time channel “isn’t working for us anymore!”

Fox does have some hard-nosed reporters and news anchors on its staff. I continue to hold up Chris Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday.” It also has Shep Smith and Brett Baier on anchor desks during the week day.

I won’t offer any commentary on the alleged “work” done by, oh, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, the “Fox & Friends” co-hosts, or Laura Ingraham. They all are full of opinions and express them regularly. They are entitled, certainly.

However, for Trump to suggest that a major news and opinion outlet should be “loyal” to him is disgusting and disgraceful beyond belief.

The pros at Fox are doing their job.

If only Donald Trump would realize the fundamental truth about Fox. The network might produce more “friendly” or “favorable” coverage than other news outlets, but it does not work for the president of the United States.

I’m glad to hear the Fox superstars pushing back on Donald Trump.