My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

Trump and the media

There really are two kinds of media – print media (to include some websites) and "live" media.  I've never held live media (tv, radio) to a particularly high standard.  Live media has always been better at covering "live news" items – natural disasters and the OJ bronco chase for instance.  For politics and things that require some analysis or introspection, it's horrible.  Live media is that hot, immediate reaction while print has the advantage of measured response.  Live media is substantially personality-driven where print is not.  Does Hannity really support Trump?  Probably.  However, Hannity does know his bleating on about Trump draws viewers and that means money.  Same with AM Joy or any of the lefties on MSNBC.  Print media, with a few exceptions – and those exceptions are generally found on the opinion page – lacks that cult of personality: as it should.

Print media has normally been the "media of record".  That ability to wait 12 hours before the next paper was printed helped dull the edge and provide room for introspection.  Nowadays print media finds itself fighting for its life so it has naturally ventured onto the web – where publication schedules mean nothing.  Live media has their video up on the internet nearly as it happens and people like video.  Print media has to follow suit in some fashion.

And so it is that we've ended up with the traditional print media slugging it out with our President.  I like the writing in the Times but it does lean left and, I'll be honest: watching them print stories of late has been cringe-worthy.  They have been just as guilty as Trump of getting way out there.  Having the President of the United States blather on about "fake news" isn't useful but the Times and the WaPo have been conducting themselves like supermarket rags.  Wouldn't be surprised to see some Kardashian news on the front page.  

Now, the cult of personality in live media isn't going to change – that's how they sell ads.  You're going to see thin, attractive blonde women on Fox acting as foils to older guys blasting away at the "lamestream media" (of which Fox is a part) and you're going to see Smerconovich or some other lefty doing the same on MSNBC or CNN.  That part of the live media is almost entirely useless.  It's media but it ain't "News".

However, on the print media front I do see some signs of "reset" setting in.  It is tenuous but it's there.  The response from the big papers was relatively measured when Spicer didn't allow some of them admission to a press briefing.  The Times and the WaPo ran an article on their web pages but it was measured and not all that different from what the Journal provided.  Like I said, it's tenuous but present.  

At the end of the day, the news media are a crucial counterweight to any power center and they need to stick with the facts.  Yes, some editorial analysis  and maybe even outrage is important but that's confined to the editorial page.  Does Trump deserve some of the poor coverage?  Damn right.  The first month of his presidency has been a predictable, self-inflicted disaster.  He got some stuff done but it almost didn't matter.  Trump is his own worst enemy and the media were correct in pointing out all of the poor decisions and loose talk but then went too far.  It's a fine line but that's what experienced Editors are for.  The media should never relent – but nether should they go over the line.

I do believe the print media will come back to some sort of normalcy – not everyone will like that but don't confuse the job of the print media with that baloney you see on teeeveee.  I might be too optimistic but this could be the moment in which the print media rediscovers their dedication to this crucial concept: Hard-nosed reporting keeps our democracy working and it is their responsibility to make it happen.  Sensationalist headlines might sell papers – but only for awhile and only until those in power can paint them as simple "anti".  The papers need to report the Presidents actions and / or promises and then hold him accountable – regardless of his or her party affilliation.

My Daddy was never a billionaire hobnobbing with the rich and famous but the President would do well to remember the only piece of political advice he ever gave me: "never pick a political fight with someone who has nothing but time."  Trump needs to use the institutions to affect his reforms because if they aren't engaged, they have nothing but time.  Trump has the opportunity to be a transformational president but he needs to get about it and forget about someone calling him a bad name.  Fighting with media of whatever sort only creates drag.


1 Comment

  1. The media is suffering from "poopy diaper syndrome". They made the mess. over these many years, even before Trump was a blip on the political radar.  The mess stinks to high heaven. But to in the eyes of the press, the mess in their diaper is soft, it's warm, and it's all theirs. They don't want someone to change it.

    I don't make the distinction between print and broadcast. 10 years ago, I regularly read the WSJ and IBD, and maybe the PWC section of the WaPo. 10 years ago, I had Comcast Cable, and regularly watched Fox, occasionally CNN, and CNBC. 

    Now I don't buy newspapers. I might read an article or two as a "Drudge Punch-out". Inside NoVA? The Patch? Potomac Local? Meh. Anytime you have to chuck free papers into folks driveways and live purely off advertising, you are in a death spiral. Nobody values your product enough to pay you for it.

    I don't even read many blogs anymore, and only comment on this one. The medium has become passe'. Yet, I manage to stay informed. I listen to several podcasts, and watch a couple of current events Youtube channels. Still scan Drudge, but less and less as time goes on.

    Trump, IMHO, recognizes the shift in the "market". You disagree with my assessment that he is so far inside the media's OODA Loop, he's a genius. But, the media is in 100% react mode. They have been since he gave his 1st primary campaign speech. I will agree that the execution of the Trump strategy has been less than 100% effective, it has over all. Results bear this out.

    The traditional print and broadcast media doesn't have "time".  Long past are the days where the print and broadcast media enjoyed broad acceptance and appeal. CNN shook things up in 1991, when they kept their reporters in Bagdahd during Desert Storm. Murdoch recognized the change and launched FNC, and targeted the rather large, underserved, right-of-center market. Print media has always carved out its niche markets. Where I grew up, you had the very in-the-middle local paper, that everyone read, to see their kids names on the honor role, or see how the varsity football and basketball teams were doing. If you were liberal, you read the Boston Globe. If you were conservative, you read the Herald.  The clock is ticking.  Print newspapers and magazines are dying faster than species in the rainforest.

    Long past are the days where kids were required to read the news, and discuss current events. Adults have so many choices for "real" and "fake" news. They don't seek out mediums that challenge. They seek those that reinforce.

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