Press not the enemy, but not smart either.

August 19, 2018

I’m sure when she dreamed it up she thought it one of those “YES, that’ll show em!” moments. The “she” in this story is one Marjorie Pritchard, deputy managing editor of The Boston Globe.

The moment?  Put out a call to newspapers across the country to join her in a coordinated editorial event denouncing what she calls: President Trump’s “dirty war against the free press”.

A call that around 300 outlets dutifully answered.

In an interview with NPR’s David Greene Ms. Pritchard explained: “He’s calling the press a domestic enemy… and our profession is to hold the powerful accountable.”

When Greene asked if the effort could “add to the perception among Donald Trump supporters that the press is the enemy of him?” she added: “It could. But it also is a point where we could start to explain the difference between the editorial side…and the news side. The news side reports on an event and the opinion side comments….I think there’s confusion on how newspapers actually work.”

And with that Ms. Pritchard illustrates the dis-connect between a press obsessed with itself and millions of Americans who just want objective reporting.

While she accurately describes how newspapers are supposed to work, her blindness to how many today are actually working speaks volumes.  The line between editorializing and news reporting has been crossed so many times by so many outlets they don’t even know where the line is anymore.

It wasn’t Donald Trump that spread the Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri “Hands up, Don’t shoot” lie around the world.

It was the Washington Post, not Donald Trump that falsely reported that Russian hackers had penetrated the nation’s electrical grid via a Vermont Utility.

In Charlottesville, North Carolina a week ago Saturday night, NBC News reporter Cal Perry and crew were attacked by radical left Antifa protesters that Perry documented on Twitter as it happened.

Yet the next morning on NBC’s own Sunday Today show none of Perry’s footage of the attack was shown and reporter Garrett Haake, referred to it as but “tense moments in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, far left protesters heckling the media and chanting anti-police slogans”.

Now that’s some serious line blurring there.

It’s the New York Times, not the White House Press Office that hired Sarah Jeong for an editorial board position even though her Twitter account is laced with “I was equating Trump to Hitler before it was cool”, “I open my mouth to politely greet a Republican, but nothing but an unending cascade of vomit flows from my face” and a #CancelWhitePeople hashtag.

It’s the same New York Times that had to explain why it requested email records from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s wife as town manager of Chevy Chase, Maryland. A request that the Times ultimately admitted: “our request yielded 85 pages of emails, none of which provided any substantive insights” and “In other words, it was hardly front-page news.”

Apparently “Common Sense 101” wasn’t offered to any of the geniuses that populate the staff of the “All the news that’s fit to print” Times.

“Hardly front-page news” goes to the heart of what is at the core of millions of Americans frustration with the media as constituted today.

When Ms. Pritchard says “our profession is to hold the powerful accountable.” our heads spin in disbelief.

Where was that accountability for eight years of an Obama administration? Where was that “truth to power” as Hillary Clinton and staff erased servers, destroyed phones and refused to turn over information duly requested by investigators?

Where is that dedication at this very moment regarding the glaring amount of questionable activities by a multitude of FBI, Department of Justice, and Intelligence figures that let said Hillary Clinton skate and brought a sledge hammer to the ice pond against Trump and crew?

But most importantly, why now? Why Trump? He’s only saying what millions of us have known for years. That the phrase “Fake News” is probably the most truthful phrase to come out of the President’s mouth.

And the Gallup organization backs that up: “Americans’ trust in the media has fallen slowly and steadily. It has consistently been below a majority level since 2007.” (The last time Gallup polled the question it was down to only 32% and Donald Trump wasn’t even President.)

Sorry Ms. Pritchard.  It’s not Trump or his voters that are the problem.

It’s the Jim Acosta’s of your group who insist on making themselves the story rather just report the facts of the story.

It’s a media that obsesses over its Russia meddling meme while ignoring hundreds of stories that deserve to be told.

And it’s a “we know better” attitude that thinks a cheap “We are not the enemy” publicity stunt will change minds.

A free and independent press IS vital to this Republic.  But until the Ms. Pritchard’s of the world openly confront the problems within the media’s own ranks those problems are only going to get worse.

Publisher Note:  A version of this column first appeared in the August 19, 2018 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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