Tag Archives: media

Once more in high praise of the media

The president of the United States has grown annoyingly fond of calling the media that publish and broadcast negative stories about him “fake news.”

The description he uses — and the context in which he utters it — demonstrate that Donald John Trump doesn’t understand what “fake news” really is. “Fake news” are the made up accounts, lies, fabrications … the kind of thing that Trump has done for many years. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

I want to offer another word of high praise for the media for the job they have done in covering the 45th president of the United States.

The world has witnessed a rebirth of sorts of traditional, gumshoe reporting by great print media. The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal — three powerhouse print outlets — all have demonstrated the value of hard-nosed reporting. Were it not for their dogged pursuit of tips the nation wouldn’t know about:

* Russian hacking into our 2016 election process.

* Donald Trump’s presidential campaign’s potential role in that meddling.

* The issues related to the president’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

* The possible conflicts of interests related to the emoluments clause in the U.S. Constitution.

That’s just four issues. The media have done their job. They have done what the media always do and what presidents — until the current one — have accepted as part of journalists’ calling.

Donald Trump instead has promoted actual “fake news” all along the way. He has promoted the scurrilous assertion that Barack Obama wasn’t constitutionally qualified to serve as president; he lied about “thousands of Muslims” cheering the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11; he has lied about “millions of illegal immigrants” voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016; he lies about the size of his electoral victory; his press office has lied about the size of Trump’s inaugural crowd.

And this man, then, has the audacity to accuse media outlets of promoting “fake news” that in actuality is merely news that doesn’t slather him in glowing praise.

Mr. President, that’s the way it goes. Every single one of your predecessors has gotten beaten up by the media. Have they blackballed news outlets? Have they called the media “the enemy of the people”? Have they called individual reporters “terrible, dishonest human beings”? No. They understand the value of a free press and have welcomed the media’s efforts to hold all public officials accountable for the words and actions.

They have reacted far more professionally and “presidential” than the thin-skinned weakling who occupies the Big Chair in the Oval Office.

As someone who toiled for nearly four decades as a print journalist, I am damn proud of the job my former colleagues are doing.

POTUS redefines response strategy

Donald Trump’s communications team is defending The Boss by repeating a troubling dodge.

It is that the president is a human being and that he shouldn’t have to endure constant attacks without responding to his critics as he has done.

Deputy White House press aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders was called out the other day by White House reporter who skewered her for the White House’s constant yammering about “fake news.” He said the media are simply “doing their job.” Sanders objected to the gist of what he said and implied that the media, in effect, are conspiring to concoct reports designed to put the president in a negative light.

Sanders is as wrong as wrong gets.

As for Trump’s human instincts, I feel compelled to remind the young press flack that the president’s recent predecessors all avoided the kind of petulance exhibited by the current leader of the free world.

Barack Obama also was hammered repeatedly during his two terms in office. Did he say anything even remotely similar about his critics that we are hearing from Donald Trump? Umm. Nope.

George W. Bush his share of fire from opponents as well. Did the president respond in kind? Did he go on social media to portray the media as “the enemy of the people”? No once again. Instead, President Bush understood what all presidents have known, which is that the media perform a valuable service in keeping public officials accountable for their deeds and statements.

Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford all knew as president that criticism goes with the territory. Even Richard Nixon, who came closest to the Trump model of media response, knew better than to say out loud that the media were the enemy.

I no longer have any serious hope that Donald Trump will grasp what his most recent predecessors all knew about the media and their relationship with the president.

I do, though, expect better from his spokespeople, who should cease insulting Americans with the idiocy that the president is reacting like any normal, run-of-the-mill human being.

The men who preceded him were human beings, too.

Trump vs. Media battle rages on … and on

Donald J. Trump in one important way is no different from the 44 men who preceded him as president of the United States of America.

They all disliked, distrusted and at times disrespected the media.

The difference between Trump and those other guys is the tone and tenor of the response he levels at the media for doing their job.

Trump has branded all media that report stories that aren’t totally favorable as “fake news.” Moreover, he is making admittedly superb use of social media to carry that message forward. Beyond that, his base is loving it! The folks who voted for him and who bought into his “tell it like it is” mantra continue to give him a baseline of support that barely creaks under the weight of the negativity that the president heaps onto himself.

Is this guy, though, any different from his predecessors in his dislike of the media? Nope. Not at all.

Trump assails media again

Every single predecessor — certainly those who served as president during the past 60 or 70 years — have griped openly about the coverage the media provided. Even when they complained, though, many of them did so with a smile/smirk on their face. I believe it was President Franklin Roosevelt who referred to the media’s coverage of his dog Fala, noting how reporters should lay off the presidential pooch.

On and one it has gone.

Do you think President Kennedy wanted the media to cover the Bay of Pigs fiasco in the manner that they did? Of course not. He took the criticism like a man.

President Johnson didn’t much care for the media’s coverage of the Vietnam War, either. He understood the role of a free press and accepted it as part of the job he inherited when his predecessor was gunned down.

I don’t recall hearing President Reagan bitching loudly about the coverage of the Iran-contra controversy.

President Clinton was bombarded with negativity during his eight years in the White House. His wife was a frequent target, too. And occasionally, the media actually poked maliciously at their daughter, for crying out loud.

Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama also took their share of hits over the course of their combined 16 years in office. And, by the way, President Obama was the victim of actual “fake news” promulgated by the likes of, oh, Donald J. Trump — the originator of the lie he kept telling that Obama was constitutionally ineligible to serve because he was born in a far-off land. Can there be a greater example of presidential hypocrisy than that?

The rules of president-media engagement have changed in the Age of Trump. The media are doing the job the U.S. Constitution allows them to do. The president doesn’t like what they report, so he — in effect — defames reporters and editors for serving the public interest.

Worst of all? The complainer in chief  is getting away with it!

Happy Trails, Part 26

Retirement has changed many of my habits. I don’t roll out of the sack early every single morning; I am no longer obsessed with the time of the day; indeed, there are times when I forget what day it is.

I also have changed one of my major travel habits.

No longer do I look for newspapers to purchase when I travel around the country. My wife has kidded me at times over the years about how much more stuff we are carrying home than when we leave.

My journalism career seemed to compel me to look at local newspapers. We would stop somewhere, I’d ask for a local newspaper stand and then I would purchase the paper.

Why? Well, I was always looking for new ideas on how to present, say, opinion pages. Since I edited opinion pages in Beaumont and Amarillo, Texas, for nearly three decades, I thought it helpful to see how other newspapers presented their opinions — and the opinions of contributors — to their readers.

These days, my newspaper-purchasing habit has virtually vanished. I no longer work for a living. I no longer have a need to see how other editors do their job. I no longer feel virtually obligated to fill my vehicle with newspapers, to bring them home, cart them into the house and pore over them to search for better ideas.

On our latest adventure, I did purchase one newspaper: the Memphis (Tenn.) Commercial-Appeal. It’s still a pretty good read. So, I read it — and then tossed it.

Life continues to be so very good.

How about those anonymous sources, Mr. POTUS?

This item almost doesn’t deserve comment. Aww, but what the heck.

Donald J. Trump fired of a tweet that cited anonymous sources after, um, blasting anonymous sources.

It’s become normal, I guess, for the president to do this kind of thing. Do as I say, not as I do.

* He blasts Michelle Obama for not covering her head while touring a Muslim country, only to have his wife do the same thing during his recent journey to Saudi Arabia.

* He rips into Barack Obama for all that golf he played as president, then hits the links with reckless abandon when he takes office.

* Trump leads rally crowd chants of “lock her up!” for her use of private e-mail account while serving as secretary of state, then he blabs to Russians about classified security information.


The president retweeted a Fox News report that cites an anonymous source relating to his son-in-law’s current difficulty with “the Russia thing.” He did so just days after tweeting a rant equating anonymous sources to “fake news.”

Here’s a suggestion for the president: Take a breath and be sure about what you’ve put into the public domain before firing off another of those nonsensical tweets.

Trump increases pols’ antipathy toward media

What is it about politicians who make lame jokes and then fail to own them?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is just the latest in a long and growing line of pols who have committed that transgression.

But here’s the deal: Abbott’s lame joke is speaking to a larger — more serious — issue involving the media and the politicians they cover.

The governor this past week signed into law a bill that reduces the amount of money that concealed handgun carry applicants must pay to obtain their license. Then he went to a shooting range, fired a few rounds at a target and then joked that he would carry the target around “in case I see any reporters.”

Few folks are laughing.

You see, it’s the context of Gov. Abbott’s remarks that are so damn troubling.

We can thank the president of the United States for it.

Donald Trump has all but declared war on the media. He calls them the “enemy of the people.” He accuses mainstream news outlets of producing “fake news.” He refuses to answer tough questions from the media. He calls news media outlets “a disgrace” and calls reporters “among the most dishonest people” anywhere. He reportedly told the then-FBI director that reporters should be jailed if they report on leaked classified material.

Trumpkins show up at his rallies wearing t-shirts that suggest journalists should be hanged.

Now the governor of Texas makes a goofy joke that seems to suggest it’s OK to shoot reporters. He won’t take it back. He won’t apologize for the hideous timing of the remark, coming as it did just two days after a Republican congressional candidate “body slammed” a reporter for asking him about the GOP health care overhaul.

Is this the era into which we have entered? That it’s OK to intimidate reporters for doing their job? That the First Amendment protection of a “free press” isn’t to be taken seriously, let alone literally?

Mimi Swartz, writing for Texas Monthly, has asked the governor to take it back. You can read her essay here. I don’t expect Abbott to do as she asks.

Sadly, neither do I expect the president of the United States to back off his own campaign against the media assigned to report his actions to the people he governs.


Trump needs to deal with hard truth about leaks

Donald Trump says the leaks that have sprung throughout the White House are the product of “fake news” and conspiracy mongers intent on destroying his presidency.

I’ll offer another take on it. The leaks just might be the product of individuals within the White House who are concerned about the direction the country is heading under the 45th president’s leadership.

Someone or several individuals are blabbing to the “enemy of the American people” media representatives who are reporting this leaked information to the public. Instead of dealing openly and publicly about the crux of the issues being reported, the president is lashing out. He is attacking the media. He is alienating himself and his inner circle even more from the media representatives assigned to report on their activities.

How can this possibly be constructive? How can it possibly end well for the president?


Trump tweeted upon his return from Europe and the Middle East that “fake news is the enemy.” His outright dismissal of mainstream news outlets, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, suggests that these organizations are fabricating these reports. He accuses them of violating every known principle of sound journalism. By doing so, the president demonstrates time and again that he doesn’t understand the role the media play (a) in informing the public and (b) holding public officials accountable for their words and deeds.

The president returned from his overseas trip and did not conduct a press briefing. He stiffed the media seeking to ask him questions about his meetings with international leaders and, yes, about the ongoing “Russia thing” controversy with which he must deal.

No, this kind of spiteful relationship with the media cannot end well for the president.

If he keeps it up, I am prepared to predict that it will not end well. Not at all.

Did this politician attack a media ‘enemy’?

Just how testy is the political climate getting in these United States of America?

Let’s consider this for a moment: A Republican candidate for Montana’s at-large congressional seat allegedly assaulted a reporter, “body slamming” him, breaking his eyeglasses and possibly inflicting some injury to one of the reporter’s elbow.

Montanans are going to vote Thursday to decide who should replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in the U.S. House of Representatives. The GOP candidate is Greg Gianforte; the Democrat is Rob Quist.

A reporter for the Guardian, Ben Jacobs, wanted to question Gianforte at an event in Bozeman, Mont., about the Congressional Budget Office scoring of the GOP health care overhaul legislation. Gianforte didn’t want to talk to Jacobs, which is when he assaulted him, according to eyewitnesses, telling Jacobs to “get the hell out of here!”


I worked in daily journalism for nearly 37 years. I had my share of strained relationships with news sources over that time. They included individuals of both political parties. They were members of Congress, judges, county commissioners, city council members, school board trustees. We would have strained exchanges caused by some difficult questions I would ask them.

No one ever, not a single time, ever so much as threatened to attack me — even though I once angered a Texas state district judge enough that he looked for more than a year for a way to sue me for libel; he came up empty when he couldn’t find a lawyer to represent him. For the life of me, this apparent encounter between a congressional candidate and a member of the media seems to suggest that the coarsening of media-politician relations has reached some sort of undefined level of hostility.

What do you suppose is the source of this intense anger? I’ll venture a guess. It might be a result of the kind of atmosphere prevalent at Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign rallies in 2016. You’ll recall the kind of response Trump would elicit from crowds when he spoke of the media, which he labeled “dishonest.”

Once elected, the president then referred to the media as the “enemy of the American people.”

Might this have been the response of an American politician lashing out at an “enemy”?

Spare me the gag lines, Mr. President

I’m not sure how I am going to write this blog entry.

I am laughing out loud.

Donald J. Trump has been whining about the coverage he’s been getting from the media, calling it the most unfair in U.S. history.

Here’s how Politico reported what the president told U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduates: “Look at the way I’ve been treated lately,” Trump said, as some in the audience burst into laughter, “especially by the media. No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

A friend of mine noted on social media that Trump, student of history that he is, is absolutely certain of what he said. My friend was joking, of course. Trump is no student of anything, let alone presidential history.

Unfair treatment? Hardly.

Were the media giving kid-glove treatment to, let’s see:

Harry Truman, for relieving Gen. Douglas MacArthur of his command during the Korean War?

John F. Kennedy, for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba?

Lyndon Johnson, for his prosecution of the Vietnam War?

Richard Nixon, for the Watergate scandal?

Gerald Ford, for his occasional fits of clumsiness?

Jimmy Carter, for his occasional fits of self-righteousness?

Ronald Reagan, for the Iran-Contra debacle?

George H.W. Bush, for reneging on his “read my lips” pledge to never raise taxes?

Bill Clinton, for messing around with that 20-something White House intern — and his subsequent impeachment?

George W. Bush, for failing to find weapons of mass destruction after going to war in Iraq?

Barack Obama, for enduring the “fake news” about his place of birth, which — by the way — was fomented by Donald John Trump?

These men — Democrats and Republicans — have plenty in common. They assumed the presidency knowing full well that the media would be looking carefully at every single thing they do. The media would expose every misstep, mistake, misstatement.

That’s how it goes. That’s a condition of the job to which they were elected or to which they ascended through other means.

However, for Trump to assert that he’s been given the worst treatment in the history of the presidency is — dare I say it candidly? — yet another fabrication.

There. I got through it. I’m proud of myself.

Happy Trails, Part Nine

More than two weeks into this full-time retirement life and I’ve made a bit of a discovery.

I am suffering not one bit, not a single hint of separation anxiety from my previous life.

That’s right. I do not miss waking up early each day, getting myself cleaned up and throwing on clothes suitable for the workplace. Nope. None of that has overtaken me.

I retired officially from the final part-time job I was working in late March. I clocked out, shook a couple of colleagues’ hands, hugged my boss’s neck and said goodbye.

Then my wife and I hit the road the next morning for the Hill Country and then motored west with our pickup and fifth wheel to Ruidoso, N.M. We have two more road trips already planned out and are beginning to formulate a travel plan for one or two after that.

I had anticipated some angst after leaving the working world. I hit it pretty damn hard for nearly 37 years in a pressure-packed environment. I lived by deadline working for four daily newspapers: two of them in Oregon, my home state and two others in Texas, where my family and I moved in 1984.

But it hasn’t occurred. Not a single time have I missed the grind. Not once have I wished, “Man, if only I could be back on the job reporting or commenting on this or that issue.”

It hasn’t happened. I don’t expect it will.

I told a member of my family this week about that lack of separation anxiety. My family member has been retired for a number of years and she has adapted quite smoothly to a life of relative leisure. I am not sure she quite gets why my own transition into this new life has gone so smoothly. Her expression seemed to suggest: Well, what in the world did you expect?

I believe I’ve just answered that question. I expected to miss my former life more than I do. I am glad, though, that I do not.

Three of the four part-time jobs I worked since leaving daily journalism were media-related gigs. I don’t expect any of them to return, although one of those jobs might — I want to stress might — return in some form. If it does, it will have to be right. It will have to be something that will make it worth my time and effort.

In a perverse way, my time actually has gained even greater value as my wife and I continue this journey toward points unknown.