People sure hate the news media these days, non sequitur and all.
Gov. Pat McCrory has blamed the news media for confusing people on HB2. “I frankly think some of the media has failed miserably in communicating the clear facts,” he said, specifically naming national publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.
But my favorite is the “ignorance-is-bliss” idea espoused by a state senator from South Carolina who said that she thinks the media may be the biggest problem facing the country. “Our biggest problem could very possibly (most likely) be the Media!!! If we could shut down all media for one month except for weather reports and let everyone else do their job I bet we would see a change. The media sensationalizes everything that happens stirring the pot, fueling an already blazing fire.”
Check her Facebook page. You can see where she’s coming from, and the polarized tug of war among commenters. (My favorite comment on her post came from Mimi Johnson: “If only we could get reporters to stop shooting people!”)
It’s enough to make a journalist trying her damnedest to make sense of a complicated, confounding world throw up her hands.
But I get it. CNN’s decision to hire Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who treated reporters with disrespect to the point of being arrested for battery, baffled me. Then the network put former congressman Joe Walsh on the air after he hate-tweeted that “Real America” would be coming after President Obama and Black Lives Matter marchers. Like, why? What constructive did he have to add? As it turned out, nothing.
When Gretchen Carlson sued Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, I thought, it’s about damn time. I don’t know anything about their relationship, but I watched “Fox & Friends” off and on when she was a cohost and the creepy sexual innuendo of her male cohosts oozed out of that set like slime.
Those incidents made me hate
the media CNN & Fox right then.
Look, blaming the media is a time-honored tradition.
Imagine what Jefferson would say if Twitter, TMZ and Facebook were around then.
But blaming the news media is the refuge of those who don’t want to take responsibility. Donald Trump’s views are well-known; he is rarely misinterpreted even when he takes multiple positions on the same issue. He simply doesn’t like CNN for reporting the contradictions in his words and actions. In the same way, the media didn’t misconstrue HB2; it reported sides of the issue Gov. McCrory didn’t like. Politicians are people whose words and actions — or inactions — can make a difference. Whining and blaming others are the responses of children. Yet, that’s what we’ve come to.
It’s easy to blame “the news media;” everyone does it. But the “news media” as a singular noun has more arms than Trump has supporters. (Yes, everyone can publish.) The fact is, millions of us in the U.S. are “the news media” because we share news on social networks. And much of that which we share is personal and, often, politically biased and possibly wrong.
I’m not going to defend the traditional news media. I did that for 35 years. (In the good old days, the mantra was “They may hate us, but they read us.” Sadly, the first clause is truer than the second.) It doesn’t need me, and frankly, I think, the trust battle has been lost. We seem to be a society that doesn’t trust much of anything except our own opinions. People will get their news from wherever they wish, and they will make their own determination of whether they believe it. I don’t have any great idea to fix that, if it even needs fixing. It is partly the result of having so many choices and having so many outlets in which to publish, both of which I applaud. The best thing traditional news outlets can do is be open, transparent and fair. Newspapers and TV continue to do good, strong news reporting and investigative work, despite their occasional missteps.
I admit that I’m worried about the country full of people who distrust information that clashes with their worldviews, of people who won’t listen when their attitudes are challenged. (Yes, I’m guilty of that sometimes.) But I’m also confident that with so many voices making themselves heard the truth will out. It’s the optimist in me.