When I was a kid I remember sitting down for the nightly network 15 minute news program. Aside from a nightly local newscast, that was all the news that TV had to offer. Most people depended on the local newspaper to provide depth and opinion. It was the opinion section that provided the newspaper’s political point of view and shaded news selection and placement. It was well-known that The New York Times leaned Democratic and The Wall Street Journal leaned Republican. These papers didn’t apologize for their positions nor did they make any attempt at even handedness. You knew what you were getting when you opened its pages and it was up to the individual to provide his own context and perspective. The changes that have occurred in the news and journalism business over the last half century have been breathtaking. Today the cable news networks have replaced the newspaper as the purveyors of opinion. In fact, it is near on to impossible to find a cable news program that isn’t dictated by a particular point of view. Just as the newspapers of yesterday didn’t apologize for their positions or attempt to be even-handed, the cable news networks don’t either. That is until the current presidential election cycle. During the past 12 months they have lost their way and while Fox News continues to be strikingly unapologetic for its slant on the candidates, CNN and MSNBC appear to be cowering under some unseen pressure to be “Fear and Balanced”.
Perhaps it is the fear of being accused of being unbalanced and unfair. Whatever it is, both MSNBC and CNN and some of our major newspapers are doing a disservice to their viewers and readers. Any objective observer would have to agree that over the past 12 months all candidates that weren’t named Trump got the short end of the stick. Trump has received billions of dollars of free advertising as we were forced into viewing his rallies when ordinary programming was cast aside. Newspapers showcased him day after day. This happened on a regular basis and did great damage to all other candidates who had to actually pay for exposure. What was particularly troubling was that the assertions made by Trump at these rallies were accepted as fact without question. Rather than challenge the misstatements of fact, the anchors, when they did finally come back on camera, would discuss the crowd or Trump’s affect rather than his words. It was as if the press was enamored by this showman and unable to get past his showmanship.
We have seen this continue through the general election campaign. The loser this time is Hillary Clinton. The press has showcased her e-mail issues as well as any factually flawed assertions by Trump, while barely paying any attention to Trump’s many questionable business practices or outlandish pronouncements. I needn’t enumerate them if you are reading this blog post because you already know them. What is clear is the fact that Trump’s business ethics and narcissistic personality are both significant liabilities that have barely been explored or exposed by the press. They seems to be bending over backwards to appear impartial. But by so doing they are showcasing every unsupported or eronious charge against Clinton. Time after time I have seen anchors allow untrue assertions or explanations go unchallenged. This does a disservice to the viewers and most importantly to Hillary Clinton.
Additionally, Trump has used a tactic taken by many who had much to hide. He continues to cast aspersions on the press. He calls them evil and dishonest and keeps them in a pen in the back of the room. Not only has the press tried so hard to be fair to him that they have been unfair to Hillary, they have shown themselves to be gutless. Why are they still attending his rallies and reporting on them? Why don’t they demand respect from this bully? They should announce a boycott and stop reporting on him until he treats them with dignity. Believe me, this is a man who thrives on the spotlight. He would work to be back in their good graces in no time flat.
The press serves a vital function. We are so fortunate to have a free press protected by our Constitution. However, to fulfill their obligation they must report honestly and demand respect or they will be subverting the very Constitution that protects them. It is our free press that separates us from much of the world. It is an important part of what makes our country great.