There are many losers in the wake of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel faces double-edged sword with Alex Jones, Roger Stone Trump goes after Woodward, Costa over China Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves MORE’s victory. They include Hollywood, pollsters, the Bush family and the GOP’s donor class, and neocons. But the biggest losers are the mainstream media (MSM) and journalism itself.
And it’s the damage done to journalism, not the fate of pundits or media outlets, that is the most disturbing. After all, it’s been reported for years that Republicans and conservatives in ever larger numbers deem the MSM to be in the Democrats’ and liberals’ corner, and if that perception is okay with media moguls it’s their choice to make — and to live with the consequences in the marketplace.
But when, as happened this year, so much of the media openly and willfully suspended the practice of separating news from opinion, they crossed a boundary of what’s rightly theirs and what’s ours. It’s our right and need to know about civic matters, fully, fairly and accurately, that is the public virtue in journalism and the sine qua non of democracy.
Although virtually all of the MSM violated this boundary in their frantic support of Clinton, some were worse than others. As is often the case, CNN led in this category, not only by the sheer breadth of their editorializing but by their role in passing on to the Clinton campaign, in advance, questions that were to be asked during the presidential debate hosted by that network.
But the very worst of the MSM in this regard were not the TV networks, broadcast or cable, but the two newspapers that dominate the news business, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
It will be up to journalism schools and content analysts to do the studies necessary to compute the ways, and the number of times, these newspapers incorporated opinion in their news and feature stories. But in the same way that you don’t need a study to know which way the wind is blowing, it’s obvious by any measure that this was a defining feature of their coverage.
Indeed, opinion polls done around the time of the election found that large majorities of the public felt that the media were biased against Trump, and that even Democrats thought so!
There’s no better example of this than the Times’ post-election headline: “Democrats, Students And Foreign Allies Face The Reality Of A Trump Presidency.” As Mark Halperin observed at the time, it was a headline that could have come from The Onion.
So the questions now are whither the MSM, and what’s the future of journalism? Will the former go the way of Times’ editorialists like David Brooks, who relieved himself of the opinion that “less-educated and non-college educated whites are going to vote for Donald Trump no matter what…people are just going with their gene pool,” a comment that, had it been made in reference to people voting for Clinton, would have been the end of that person’s career?
The publisher of the New York Times issued a post-election statement to his readers that some people took for an apology of sorts, but a close reading of the statement reveals that it’s quite a stretch to characterize it as an apology.
And what about journalism itself? Is it possible to restore objective journalism? The guess from here is that the answer is no. Instead, we’re more likely to see a future in which the “news media” are deeply involved in journalism-by-polemics, with the left represented by the MSM and the right by such as Fox News, Breitbart, Drudge, and Infowars.
Which is another way of saying that there will be no general interest news outlets that report breaking news and feature stories in ways that will be credible or satisfactory. So thanks a lot, MSM. You’re not worthy of the trust the people (used to) have in you.
Maines is president of The Media Institute. The opinions expressed are his alone and not those of the Institute’s contributors, trustees, or advisory council members.
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