Tag Archives: mainstream media

‘Fair and balanced’? Sure thing

They call themselves the “Fox ‘News’ Channel.” It’s a conservative-leaning cable network that has purported to present the “news” in a “fair and balanced” manner.

Well, check out the caption under the TV image that flashed on the Fox “News” Channel. It parrots the epithet that Donald J. Trump has used to disparage U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who has just announced the formation of an exploratory committee to help her decide to run for president in 2020.

The “Pocahontas” label, of course, is Trump’s way of ridiculing Warren’s contention that she has some Native American blood in her background. The president has decided Warren’s claim is without merit, so he has hung that label on her.

Fox has glommed onto it as well.

Is that how one might define a mainstream “news” network’s “fair and balanced” coverage of a still-developing presidential campaign?

Imagine what political conservatives might think — and say — if CNN or MSNBC broadcast an image of Donald Trump with the caption that read “Cadet Bone Spur,” or “Liar in Chief,” or, well . . . you get the idea.

The Fox “News” Channel simply demonstrates yet again that it is neither “fair” or “balanced.” It serves instead as a de facto presidential mouthpiece.

Disgraceful.

Does voting compromise one’s objectivity?

Every now and then you hear journalists say something like this: I don’t vote because doing so would compromise my ability to cover candidates fairly.

You even hear such things from public officials, namely those in the legal or law enforcement professions. They don’t vote because they want to be able to investigate wrongdoing without regard to whether they are investigating a politician they might have endorsed with their ballot.

I do not harbor such reticence. I have voted in every election since I became eligible to vote, which was, shall we say, a long time ago. I do so with pride. I take a great deal of interest in the political and electoral process.

I was a journalist for more than 37 years. I spent most of those years as an opinion writer and editor of opinion pages.

Not one time did I ever ponder whether my job interfered with my performing a basic act of good citizenship, which is voting for the candidates of my choice or deciding on the issues of the day.

During the years I wrote editorials for newspapers in Oregon and Texas, I authored endorsements for candidates who did not get my vote at the ballot box. I saw no conflict there.

Of course it helped that none of the newspapers where I wrote those editorials — one in Oregon and two in Texas — required me to put my name on the editorials. I wrote them on behalf of the newspaper and its editorial board, which usually comprised me, the publisher and at times the editorial page staff.

Did the issue of whether I should vote in elections ever come up? No. Publishers to whom I reported never raised the issue. Nor did the executive editor who was my supervisor in Beaumont, Texas. It was generally understood that we were free to exercise our right to vote.

Prior to becoming an opinion writer and editor, I did work as a general assignment reporter who covered city councils, school boards, county commissions as well as writing features — and the occasional investigative piece. The issue of who got my vote never came up. No sources ever asked it of me and I never brought it up to any of them; we do vote in secret, correct?

I view voting as a fundamental right. I exercised it with unbridled enthusiasm when I was working for a living.

Did it inhibit my ability to do my job? Not for a single instant!

Time of My Life, Part 5: Conventions bring serious tasks

Every now and then journalists get to see the most serious tasks imaginable in a totally new context, especially when you’re thrust into a front-row seat.

I had a couple of those experiences while working for the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise. I want to share them with you briefly here.

In 1988 and again in 1992 I was privileged to attend two Republican National Committee presidential nominating conventions. Beaumont lies between two major cities — New Orleans to the east and Houston to the west. The GOP nominated Vice President George H.W. Bush as president in 1988 in New Orleans; then the party nominated him again for re-election in 1992 in Houston.

I got to witness all of the hubbub, the whoopin’ and hollerin’ up close both times.

The 1988 convention placed me behind the speaker’s podium inside the Superdome in New Orleans, where I witnessed President Reagan deliver a stirring speech to the faithful crowd. After the president finished his speech — and as the crowd cheered the Gipper — he and his wife, Nancy, turned and walked off the stage and so help me as God is my witness, he looked straight at me as we made eye contact. I have to say that was quite a thrill.

I worked in the same media room with some fine reporters and columnists. One of them is Chris Matthews, who at both conventions was a “mere” columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, which was owned by the same Hearst Corporation that owns the Beaumont Enterprise. I got to know Matthews, I like to say, “before he became ‘Chris Matthews,'” the current star of prime-time cable TV coverage on MSBNC. He and I enjoyed a cup of coffee at the Houston convention, chatted for a few minutes. He wouldn’t remember it, but it happened.

The 1992 gathering in the Houston Astrodome was notable as well for a couple of speeches. Conservative firebrand Pat Buchanan sought to wrest the GOP nomination from President Bush and delivered the frightening speech in which he implored the delegates to “take our country back” from some nefarious evil forces Buchanan thought had hijacked the nation. I also got to hear former President Reagan bring down the house when he mentioned the Democrats’ nominee, Bill Clinton, who Reagan said fancied himself to be another Thomas Jefferson. He responded, “Let me tell you, governor. I knew Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson was a friend of mine, and governor, you’re no Thomas Jefferson.”

The former president’s timing was picture perfect, owing to his well-known skill as a film and TV actor.

The biggest takeaway from both conventions was the sight of serious men and women doing the most serious work imaginable — nominating candidates for president and vice president of the United States — while wearing goofy elephant hats, with vests festooned with buttons and labels and generally carrying on like children at a birthday party.

I simply had to suspend my disbelief as I watched these individuals performing this most serious of tasks.

Yes, it was representative democracy in its raw form. It was a joy to watch and to cover it for the newspaper that employed me.

Actually, Mr. POTUS, it’s all ‘legal’

Donald J. Trump continues to fly off the rails with his ongoing assault on the media.

Here is what he posted this morning on Twitter: A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?

If you can past the mangled syntax of this tweet, I’ll provide a simple explanation of why the president — as usual — is dead wrong.

Mr. President, it’s all “legal.” It’s protected by the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment says the government cannot interfere with what a “free press” reports. It says media freedom shall not be “abridged.”

How in the world do the courts rule on the accuracy of media reports? There is no defamation here. There is no slander. No libel.

I get that the president is uncomfortable with the tone of much of the media coverage.

One more time — but most certainly not the final time: It goes with the territory, Mr. President. The media are on duty to do precisely what they are doing at this moment. They are seeking to hold you and your administration accountable for your actions, your rhetoric and the myriad promises you make.

Time of My Life, Part 3: Miracle on Burnside Street

Walter Cronkite coined the phrase on the evening news, calling it “the Miracle on Burnside Street.”

Every so often, reporters get a chance to report on “miracles.” This one occurred on Dec. 28, 1978. It was in the middle of the night. It was bitter cold. I jumped at the chance to chronicle the event.

A DC-8 jetliner was making an approach to Portland (Ore.) International Airport. It ran out of fuel. The pilot, sensing tragedy was about to occur, aimed the jet on a glide path toward the darkest patch of ground he could see from the flight deck. He crashed the bird in a stand of tall timber in suburban Portland.

Here’s one miracle: The plane didn’t catch fire. The second “miracle,” if you want to call it that, was that only 10 people died out of the more than 100 passengers and crew on board.

I was a young reporter working for the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier, a small daily newspaper about 15 miles south of Portland. I got word of the crash and then jumped in my car and sped toward where I heard it had landed. I had my notebook, pen and a camera on hand.

Police and fire personnel had cordoned off the area, so I had to park some distance away. I didn’t have a “press credential,” per se, on me. So I improvised. I pulled out my driver’s license and a business card.

I approached one security checkpoint and flashed both pieces of ID just to prove to whoever saw that I was the person whose name was on the business card. The fireman let me through. I went to the next one and did the same thing; the police officer waved me by. Same for the third checkpoint.

Eventually, I got to the crash site and was stunned by the appearance of the DC-8 jet tail standing among the trees; it was bathed in spotlights.

I talked to some witnesses who watched the plane crash through the forest. It destroyed no homes that I could see. I was able the next day to write a story for our newspaper; I followed up for a couple of days after that.

But before I departed the crash site, I noticed something that tore my guts out. I noticed 10 bodies laid out in a row. One of them was an infant. The medical personnel were laying blankets and tarps over them. I watched someone place a tarp over the tiny body.

Reporters aren’t supposed to cry when they’re on the job.

I cried anyway.

Time of My Life: a look back

I have shared with you already my thoughts about my annoying penchant of stressing the negative and pushing aside the positive aspects of a career I enjoyed for 37 years.

I vowed in an earlier blog post that I would seek to look with fondness at a career in daily journalism that gave me much more joy than sadness. Yeah, the sadness at the end of that career stung, but it’s over now. I am a happy fellow, enjoying retirement with my wife and our puppy named Toby.

So, with that I want to announce the start of a recurring feature on this blog. I want to share with you some of the particular events I was privileged to see up close, some of the remarkable things I was able to do, and some of the amazing individuals with whom I had contact during my modestly successful career.

It won’t be an overly frequent feature, but I’ll bring some of these things up when the spirit moves me, or when I lack more topical subjects on which to comment.

I’ve already introduced a couple of such recurring features: Puppy Tales and Happy Trails. You know what they cover. This one I’ll call Time of My Life.

I will ask only thing of you: Understand that I never once saw myself as anyone’s “enemy,” certainly not an “enemy of the American people.” I was just one of many young people who came of age in the early 1970s seeking to make a difference in the community we called home. I clashed a time or two with elected public officials, but in the end they all seemed to understand that I was just doing my job, just as they were doing theirs.

I am likely to share some of those clashes with you. I do not intend to portray myself as the “good guy” and the person with whom I butted heads as the “bad guy.” That’s just one element of this series.

The rest of it will seek to relay to you how much dadgum fun I had pursuing a craft that at times seemed to define me. The fun started in Oregon, my home state and continued through two communities in Texas, in Beaumont and then in Amarillo.

I was fond of telling people after I became an editorial writer, editor and columnist that I had the “best job in the world.” Why? Because I was allowed to foist my opinions on thousands of people every day.

Can it be any more fun than that?

Sauce for the gander?

Some members of the far right wing mainstream media are just appalled, I tell ya, that individuals who seek to honor the life and service of the late President George H.W. Bush are taking pot shots at one of his successors, Donald John Trump.

How dare they say those things and besmirch the tributes to Bush 41? I think I know how those Trump critics justify the criticism.

They suggest — and I concur with them — that Donald Trump has shown no reluctance to criticize political foes while they are stricken with life-threatening illness. I am thinking specifically of the late Sen. John McCain, who died in August after battling brain cancer. Did the president let up on his anger over McCain’s “no” vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act? He did not.

He mocked a New York Times reporter’s physical disability; he took dead aim at a Gold Star family whose son died in Iraq because they criticized him at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

I believe that lies at the crux of the belief among those who choose to honor President Bush. They remember his decency, his grace, his humility, his empathy, his deep and fundamental understanding of public service; indeed, they honor his seven decades of public service, starting with his combat duty during World War II as the Navy’s youngest fighter pilot.

It is impossible to avoid drawing comparisons between President Bush and his presidential successor. What’s more, Donald Trump’s own record of disparaging others is loaded with examples of precisely the lack of the qualities that George H.W. Bush exhibited during his long and distinguished public life.

The pundits and commentators on the far right are entitled to express their outrage over the treatment that Trump is getting at this moment. Let ’em gripe.

Just remember the old “sauce for the goose and sauce for the gander” refrain. What’s good for one is certainly good for the other.

Trump wears me out … and I’m the retired guy!

My life as a retired individual has placed me in front of a TV watching news a good portion of most days.

I will be terribly candid here. I spend too much time watching TV news. It wears me out. Why? Because so much of it deals with drama presented by Donald J. Trump, the nation’s president.

It makes me wonder: If the news of each day wears me out, how in the world does the president continue to “function,” such as he does, under the pressure of all the missteps, mistakes, miscues and misjudgments he makes?

Jeb Bush called him the “chaos candidate” for president and said his presidency would be filled with chaos as well. Boy, howdy! The former GOP governor of Florida had that one right!

I just don’t understand where Trump stores that cache of whatever it is that keeps him going. Nor do I understand how he interprets his tenure as president as an A+ endeavor, how he defines “winning” and how in the world anything gets done within the executive branch of the U.S. government.

The president calls the cadence. That is more true with this president than many — if not all — of his predecessors.

It’s a cadence of fits and starts. It’s not a “fine-tuned machine.” It’s a clunker of a vehicle that keeps looking as if it’s falling apart piece by piece.

Yep. I am worn out by all this chaos and confusion. But … I’ll keep watching it unfold.

Tough to watch this exchange: Trump vs. Acosta

I’ll admit to anyone in the world that the exchange between Donald Trump and a notable CNN journalist, Jim Acosta, was difficult to watch.

The president called on Acosta to ask him a question during a White House post-midterm election press conference. Acosta posed the question and then Trump went off.

Acosta’s question dealt with the refugee “caravan.” Trump didn’t like the tone of the question and then he blasted Acosta for being a “rude, terrible person.” He said CNN “should be ashamed” for employing Acosta.

POTUS vs. CNN

Then, later in the day, the White House revoked Acosta’s press credentials, denying him access to sources within the White House and the West Wing.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a Twitter message that said: President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration. We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern…

So, that was the pretext for the White House pulling a CNN reporter’s credentials.

Nonsense. It’s shameful nonsense at that.

Trump still refuses to accept any responsibility

Donald Trump took on the media today and once again demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to accept any responsibility for the anger that permeates the atmosphere throughout the country.

He continues to blame the “enemy of the people,” aka the national media. He lays blame on Democrats and anyone who happens to disagree with him.

The president won’t accept responsibility. I have given up wondering when he might see the light. I have surrendered my desire for him to realize the error of his ways.

He either (a) doesn’t understand what he’s doing or (b) knows precisely what he’s doing and is talking specifically, directly and explicitly to his base of supporters.

You know, the more I think about it, the more I believe it’s the latter.

Donald Trump is not a stupid man. He knows how he is perceived. He doesn’t care one bit about those of us who disagree with him.