I don’t often comment on national politics, unless it’s an election year, but President Donald Trump’s words really got me thinking this week. During his Feb. 16 news conference, he addressed his issues with the press calling them “dishonest” and saying, “The press is honestly, out of control.”
I have to say I agree with him to some extent, some of the things I see major media reporting on is just ridiculous. Much of the press shows some level of distortion one way or the other.
The press went nuts, they took to social media, defending their point. I get it, I totally do. The need to defend yourself when you are attacked for your profession is ingrained into us. No matter what your business, we Americans work hard at our jobs. We don’t like being told that we are “wrong” and of course to call someone “dishonest” is nothing more than an attack on a person’s fundamental beliefs. Something that is never OK in my opinion.
Sadly, Trump is right to an extent. Not the whole attack on CNN Reporter Jim Acosta, stuff like that is never all right in my book, but what was the big takeaway, from that news conference? Not the fact that he nominated Alexander Acosta for labor secretary or any of the other topics he discussed such as the resignation of Michael Flynn as national security adviser, U.S. relations with Russia or even an upcoming executive action on immigration. Nope, those things were a mere mention in area newscasts that night. Instead the press focused on what was said about the media being “dishonest,” adding fuel to the fire, so to speak.
Some other takeaways for me, Trump also said that “some of the media” is “honest and fantastic.” But I didn’t hear that reported on the news, did you? Trump also called for a “plan to begin building for the massive rebuilding of the United States military,” due to an increase in ISIS activity. I didn’t hear anything about that one either. Trump also talked about immigration, supporting our police, the war on drugs, the economy and many other things.
But, what was the big news story after this particular news conference? The interaction with Acosta. When Acosta asked him about the “attack of fake news,” and Trump “attacking our network,” Trump’s response of I’m changing it from fake news, though to “very fake news,” was what hit the headlines throughout the day.
Frankly, I don’t care much for the back and forth and juvenile behavior this president tends to show. Trump tends to exhibit a lot of attention seeking behavior. Then the question is, “What does mainstream media do when he does?” Why, they make it their top story of the day of course, and by doing so, encourage him to continue with his bad behavior. How about if instead of reinforcing the behavior with headlines, we treat him like a petulant child — ignore it and move on?
Instead of focusing on the ridiculous side of things, there are many other things that came out of that news conference that deserved questions for clarification. However, once Trump ridiculed Acosta, it was all over but the crying. I knew it and everyone in that room knew it too.
According to the American Press Institute, “News is that part of communication that keeps us informed of the changing events, issues, and characters in the world outside. Though it may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of news is as a utility to empower the informed. The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.
“While journalism occupies a much smaller space than the talk, entertainment, opinion, assertion, advertising and propaganda that dominate the media universe, it is nevertheless perceived as being more valuable than most of the ‘stuff out there.’ That value flows from its purpose, to provide people with verified information they can use to make better decisions, and its practices, the most important of which is a systematic process – a discipline of verification – that journalists use to find not just the facts, but also the ‘truth about the facts.’”
I think that as journalists, we would be wise to remember this.
But, hey, it’s only my opinion.