Tag Archives: media

How does Trump justify his media hatred?

The hate/hate relationship Donald John Trump has with the media has baffled me from the beginning of his presidency.

You see, the man ought to be thanking the media for the role they played in advancing his presidential candidacy. It hasn’t worked out that way. He has become the media’s Enemy No. 1. And how? Because he fired the first shot in the war.

The media’s making of a presidential candidacy became evident from the candidate’s first day on the campaign trail. He rode down that elevator at Trump Tower in June 2015 and a “love affair” was born.

Trump made outlandish statements from Day One. The media didn’t challenge him. The media seemed reluctant to call the candidate what he was: a liar.

When he announced his plan to ban Muslims from entering the country, he said he witnessed “thousands of Muslims cheering” the collapse of the Twin Towers; he didn’t witness any such thing. He said he lost “many friends” in the Twin Towers; he didn’t lose any friends.

Did the media challenge him in real time for the lies he told? No. They generally let them ride.

Prior to his running for the first public office he ever sought — the presidency — Trump loved the media exposure as long as it promoted his business ventures. He loved the media as well. He chummed around with media moguls.

Eventually, and it took a while, the media began to wise up to how the candidate was playing them. They started, um, doing their job.

It’s been said that the media should “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” That’s what they do. It’s part of their charge as professionals. Trump is among the more, uh, comfortable people in public life; he kept telling us how fabulously wealthy he is. And smart, too.

It’s gone downhill ever since. His election as president has turned the one-time media lover into a media hater. He labels the media as the “enemy of the American people.” His standard retort to anything he deems negative is to call it “fake news.” Trump commits the unconscionable act of singling out individual reporters and the news organizations they represent. He lies continually and the media keep calling him out.

It truly is an amazing turn of events. The president of the United States has declared war on the very institution he needs to inform the public of whatever message he wants to deliver.

Every single one of the president’s predecessors has experienced difficulty with the media during their time in the office Trump now occupies. They all understood something that Trump ignores: The media kept them accountable for their actions.

The media are doing now what they should have been doing from the very beginning of this guy’s campaign for the presidency.

Hey, Mr. POTUS, the Constitution allows it!

I beg your pardon, Mr. President?

You, Donald J. Trump, need to acquaint yourself with the document you took an oath to defend and protect. Then again, you’ve heard that call already from many of your critics.

And yet your supporters seem to give you a pass for the ignoramus-sounding statements you keep making while you bitch about the media doing their job.

Your statement about being “disgusted” that the media can report certain things is utterly, completely and profoundly ignorant. How’s that? Well, that silly ol’ First Amendment allows a “free press” to report without any government interference, bullying or coercion.

It’s in there. Honest, Mr. President.

Loosen libel laws?

And what’s with this nutty notion of wanting to loosen libel laws, to make it easier for people on whom the media report to sue the media for damages. Most states make it difficult to prove libel for a reason. They establish truth as an absolute defense for those being sued.

The press can write “whatever it wants,” Mr. President? That’s what disgusts you? The media do a pretty good job of policing themselves already. They have “outed” many reporters over many years who have reported falsely. Do the names Jason Blair and Janet Cooke, to name just two, ring a bell with you? They were caught reporting bogus news stories and essentially booted from the profession.

I write all this, Mr. President, as someone who toiled as a journalist for nearly 37 years. I didn’t get to cover the presidency directly. I harvested my share of hard feelings, though, from public officials I’ve reported on or offered commentary regarding their activities. I’ve managed to remain humble enough over the years, never taking myself more seriously than my craft.

Many other journalists fall into the same category of individuals who seek to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

They don’t need any bullying from the president of the United States. In fact, the Constitution of the United States would appear to prohibit you from doing what you are trying to do.

So, with all due respect, Mr. President … knock it off!

Media ‘enemy’ deliver yet again in face of tragedy

Donald J. Trump is going to have to live with a profoundly unfair epithet he hurled at the national news media, which continue to perform the duty their members all signed on to do.

Which is to report the news, to tell the public about their world — the good news and the bad. The media are not, as Trump infamously declared, “the enemy of the American people.”

Let’s look for a moment at the job the media are doing in telling us about Hurricane Maria’s tragic aftermath.

The media have flown into Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. They have encountered virtually impossible working conditions, starting with the total loss of electricity to power the equipment they need to report to the world about the suffering that’s occurring in those two U.S. territories.

They have told the stories of our fellow Americans having to cope with the destruction brought to them by Maria. They have in some cases put themselves in harm’s way. They have exposed themselves to the same elements that are plaguing the citizens of Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.

And yet …

The president of the United States continues to chide the media — in his own mind — for failing to tell the world about the “fantastic” job the federal government is doing to deliver aid and comfort to those stricken by the storm.

Get off it, Mr. President! The media have done their job. Just as they always do their job. That the media don’t tell the story precisely to the president’s liking by reporting news that doesn’t cast him in the most positive light possible should not reflect badly on the job the media are doing.

Without the media, the rest of the nation would not know about the struggles, the misery and the heroism being exhibited daily as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands seek to regain their footing.

Keep up the great work, my former colleagues. As for the president, he needs to focus — for once — solely on his job, which is to ensure that our government rescues our fellow citizens from their suffering.

No good news in media? Whoa! Hold on here!

Every now and then I feel the need to rise the defense of my former media colleagues who get pilloried unfairly for the way they report the news.

Today provided me that opportunity. It was in a fascinating venue, to say the least.

Our Sunday school class broke into small-group discussions this morning. We had watched a video that talked about extending blessings and expressing gratitude.

Then one of our table mates asserted that “you never hear” good news in the media. Our friend indicated that the media are concerned only about bad news, about negativity, about tragedy and sadness.

“I have to respectfully disagree with you,” I said.

The context of the gentleman’s assertion was the Hurricane Harvey recovery effort and he sought to make a point that the media don’t report on all the effort being made to help the victims fight back from the misery brought to them by the killer storm.

I couldn’t restrain myself. I noted that the media have reported time and time again about the positive aspects of the storm recovery. How did the public know, for example, about the hundreds of relief volunteers lining up at storm shelters in Houston and along the Gulf Coast? The media reported it!

That’s just one example.

My wife noted correctly media consumers aren’t likely to be drawn to be positive news, but they certainly are drawn to negative coverage. It’s the nature of the proverbial beast.

I spent nearly four decades working in the media. I have challenged readers of the newspapers where I worked who have complained to me about “all the negative news” in the paper to look through any edition of the paper and count the stories that have positive spins and those with negative spins. I’ve always believed they would be surprised to learn that the paper contained many more positive stories than negative ones.

In this Internet Age, one can find links to news organizations’ home pages that guide readers to “positive news.” My wife wondered this morning, “I wonder how many readers actually open those links and read those stories.”

On a whole array of issues covering the complete landscape of reportage, the media continue to do their job with professionalism, compassion and dedication. Do all media representatives live up to that standard? No, but you can find bad actors in every single profession or craft in this country or around the world!

I would argue that the media’s focus on negative vs. positive news isn’t necessarily the issue. The question ought to be asked of the public that consumes this information.

Events give media chance to shine brightly

I never got the chance to serve on a Pulitzer Prize jury, to select winners in print journalism’s top prizes.

This year is going to produce a Pulitzer juror’s “nightmare,” if you want to call it such. The media, namely the folks who work in the print end of it, have distinguished themselves grandly while covering compelling issues of the day.

Were it not for the media, we wouldn’t know about the various crises threatening to swallow the Donald J. Trump administration whole. Many of print journalism’s top guns — at the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Washington Post — have been distinguishing themselves with top-drawer reporting that would give Pulitzer jurors fits. It’s interesting in the extreme to me that so many of the cable news outlets keep referencing stories that have been broken first by print organizations.

Then something else happened this summer.

Two killer hurricanes boiled up out of the warm water offshore and delivered death and destruction, first to the Texas Gulf Coast and then to the Caribbean and to all of Florida.

Reporters, photographers and their editors all have worked very long days and nights trying to cover the story of human misery. Newspapers from the Coastal Bend, Houston and then to the Golden Triangle have answered the call. Indeed, one of my former employers — the Beaumont Enterprise — has called at least one of its veteran former reporters out of retirement to assist in telling the community’s story as it seeks to recover from Hurricane Harvey’s savage wrath.

The story of media intrepidity is being repeated now in Florida as that state struggles to regain its footing in the wake of Hurricane Irma’s own brand of immense savagery.

There you have it: severe political tumult and potential constitutional crises and Mother Nature’s unimaginable power have combined to create circumstances that make the media answer the call to duty.

To think, as well, that the president of the United States refers to these dedicated men and women as “the enemy of the American people.” Donald Trump knows nothing about the dedication to their craft — and in many instances the heroism — they exhibit in trying to report important issues to a public that wants to know what’s happening in their world.

Good luck, Pulitzer jury, as you seek to find winners in this most eventual period in history.

To my former colleagues, I am immensely proud of you.

Media attacks = dictatorship?

I have been reluctant to equate Donald John Trump Sr.’s constant attacks on the media with the behavior of tinhorn dictators — and truly evil despots.

That is until now.

The president tore into the media again Tuesday night at that campaign rally in Phoenix, Ariz. He called them “fake” and “dishonest.”

Trump echoed much of what he has said ad nauseam ever since he launched his presidential campaign.

For seemingly forever, the media let him get away with it. They would report on his rants, letting his words speak for themselves. Trump obliged. He courted the media.

Then something happened. The media began calling the president out on the lies he kept repeating. The media started to reveal falsehoods. Trump didn’t like that. Then the attacks got really hot.

There’s a pattern developing, according to media watchdogs and political pundits. It’s disturbing in the extreme. The pattern follows a familiar course: political leaders seek to delegitimize the media, to reduce their standing among citizens. These leaders have sought to turn the people they want to lead against the media.

Hitler did it in Germany. Stalin did it in the Soviet Union. There have been assorted Third World dictators who have done the very same thing: Pol Pot in Cambodia, Idi Amin in Uganda, Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania.

I cannot pretend to know what is motivating Donald J. Trump’s incessant attacks on the  media. Nor can I pretend to understand anything as it regards the president’s thinking.

I just know that presidents for as long as I’ve been alive have sought to understand the media’s role in a free society. They’ve all reached a form of bipartisan understanding. None of them has liked reading or hearing critical news stories about their presidencies.

However, as former President George W. Bush said recently, the media are “necessary to keep public officials accountable.”

And, no, the media are not — as Donald Trump has said — the “enemy of the American people.”

What’s with this new talking-head cliche, ‘full stop’?

I guess I need to brush up more frequently on talking-head jargon.

I’ll admit, for starters, that I do watch a lot of news and commentary during the day. Retirement has freed me up to do these things. Thus, I hear a lot of contemporary jargon flying out of the mouths of pundits/contributors/commentators.

You’ve all heard ’em: Kick the can down the road; at the end of the day; all that being said; boots on the ground; going forward … blah, blah, blah.

Here’s a new one that well might replace “at the end of the day” as my least favorite, most annoying cliché.

“Full stop.”

What the hell?

I think I first heard that term used in a “Star Trek” movie. Capt. Kirk ordered the Starship Enterprise to come to a “full stop.” My response then was to giggle a bit. “Full stop? Does that mean something other than simply ‘stop’?”

Now it’s taking its place in geopolitical discussion. The chattering class in Washington is now using “full stop,” I reckon, to emphasize that their disagreement with a public policy issue.

“That issue just won’t resonate with the American people. Full stop.” Is that how they use it?

I’ll continue to watch the news, absorb what the talking heads are telling me. I just will have to ignore one more annoying cliché as I listen to the “experts” offer their take on the day’s prevailing issue.

Maybe I just am getting more curmudgeonly.

I’ll make a vow never to use any of those clichés in this blog. I’ll refer instead to what the United Press International style guide said about them: Avoid them like the plague.

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!