Before we head home for what will undoubtedly be a raucous holiday weekend of conversation, let's first look back at last two weeks since the unlikely election on 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 from a media perspective.
Later in the morning after the Republican was officially declared the winner, we started hearing from various voices in the industry about a need for self-education to glean what lessons were learned. The introspection was a necessary one, after all, only because by all accounts the media — broadcast, print, online and otherwise — got failing grades for its performance.
It was an election season where journalists openly and defiantly declared that objectivity could be thrown out the window in the name of stopping a dangerous candidate. Neutrality was no longer an option. Judgement day was coming for anyone not on the take-out-Trump-train.
Journalistic felonies were discovered far and wide during the campaign season. Stories shared in advance with campaigns. Debate questions shared in advance with campaigns. Outright collusion. Blatant cheerleading. Wikileaks exposed what many suspected about the press all along: they're operatives, not journalists.
It's a shame that such a broad brush was painted here across an industry of solid, noble, honest journalists that exist primarily outside of political reporting. But think of it at the 1919 White Sox scandal: Only a few players were involved, but the whole team and sport were stained. And stains like that don't come off with one washing.
So how's that introspection by the press going? Are we seeing a more objective, fair, lucid, advocacy-free brand of journalism?
Not on your life, Charlie Brown.
Instead, it's triple-down time in the valley of the unhinged. And worst of all, many journalists still seem to think their words, their impact, still somehow has a huge impact on the daily narrative. Truth is, traditional media has about 1/10th the impact it did at the turn of the century. For if it had more sway, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future Popping the progressive bubble MORE wins going away two weeks ago.
The bubble was at it most bubbly at the Committee to Protect Journalists Awards in New York Tuesday night. It should be noted that the Committee is a noble non-profit organization celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.
Journalists are in real peril around the world with death tolls never seen before. In 2001, 37 journalists were killed around the world. In 2015, that number nearly doubled (72). "Journalism's Red Cross" is how the American Journalism Review aptly characterizes the organization, which defends the rights of journalists around the world while advocating press freedom.
But instead of using the evening to focus on a real life-and-death issue in the industry, CNN's Christiane Amanpour and New Yorker editor David Remnick used their speech to exploit the stage provided to them to stoke fear via hyperbole about a Donald Trump presidency.
"This year the threats to press freedom are quite close to home. It's right here," stated Remnick.
A room oozing with self-importance and elitism applauded with vigor.
And it can be assumed Amanpour and Remnick weren't referring to the record number of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests withheld by the Obama Administration. Nor were they talking about secretly seized phone records of the Associated Press in 2014. And they couldn't possibly be pointing to the outright spying on journalist James Rosen (FNC) through phone traces and going through his personal emails by the current administration's Justice Department.
Selective outrage based on political preference does have its limits, you know...
More Amanpour from Tuesday night's acceptance speech:
Don't stand for being labelled crooked or lying or failing.
Do stand up together--for divided we will all fall.
The historian Simon Schama, in the house tonight, told me early on that this was not just another election, and we cannot treat it as one.
And he says if ever there's a time to celebrate, honor, protect, and mobilize for press freedom and basic good journalism, it's now.
Not once did Amanpour once point the finger at those in the room and to her industry as a whole for the reputation they — not Trump — have built quite easily on their own.
Trust in media was at an all-time low well before Trump was ever a candidate, according to Gallup's annual poll on the matter. But here's a veteran journalist does what seemingly most do in this industry: Refuse to accept any responsibility for the mistrust the American people have in the Fourth Estate to the tune of 7 out of 10.
Context: Post-Watergate, the trust number was the opposite (72 percent trusting the media).
This is also the same Amanpour who gave this report just six days into the Trump transition with 72 days remaining until Inauguration Day.
The Trump White House is taking shape, and it's off to a divided start. https://t.co/EyMQPG9HBy— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) November 14, 2016
"I believe in being truthful, not neutral," Amanpour declared last night. If you're waiting for the punchline, keep waiting.
"I believe in being truthful, not neutral."Christiane Amanpour -Committee to Protect Journalists https://t.co/QK5lAhY3Dw— Susan Berger (@Msjournalist) November 23, 2016
It's not just the Amanpours and Remnicks of the world who aren't exactly doing themselves any favors in this post November-8th world, either.
Enter Stephen Colbert, a political activist who plays a comedian on TV. The 52-year-old CBS "Late Night" hosted what was supposed to be a Election Night live celebration show on Showtime. Here's how that turned out:
"That show was the hardest thing I've ever done in my entire life," Colbert said at the Montclair (NJ) film festival. ""The audience was sobbing openly."
Hilarious, right? It's just like something Johnny Carson would say, except it's not.
More Colbert on the hardest night of his career that we all should say a prayer for: "Donald Trump is going to win and we know he's going to win. And then execs and my writers were like, 'You don't want to write something for that?' And I was like, 'No!'"
If you're wondering why Jimmy Fallon doesn't lose a wink of sleep out of fear Colbert will ever remotely challenge him, that last sentence is exactly why. He simply cannot separate his job from loyalty to party. And by doing so, Colbert has alienated half the country and shrunk his audience potential accordingly.
Finally, a parting shot by Colbert after being asked if a Trump presidency will be good for his show:
"The next person who says, 'You must be happy on a certain level,' is going to have their eyes carved out. It's not fun."
And then there's Dan Rather, the guy who sat behind the CBS Evening Desk for 24 years before being forced out after standing behind "fake but accurate" documents pertaining to a report on George W. Bush's National Guard service. Rather said on his Facebook page:
This nation was founded as an opposite pole to the capriciousness of an authoritarian monarch. We set up institutions like a free press and an independent court system to protect our fragile rights. We have survived through bloody spasms of a Civil War and a Civil Rights Movement to extend more of these rights to more of our citizens.
But the direction of our ship of state has not always been one of progress. We interned Japanese Americans, Red Baited during the McCarthy era, and more. I feel the rip tide of regression once again swelling under my feet. But I intend to remain standing.
What you just read is the hyperbole actually redefined. Trump's election evokes the reason the Civil War was fought? Why the Civil Rights movement occurred? Why FDR interned Japanese Americans?
The boy that cried wolf was a story evoked in this space on Monday. The lesson is simple for a media that has cried crisis every day since Trump announced his candidacy 525 days ago:
Keep crying enough, and people will stop listening.
And from the looks of it, many of the lucid and sane likely already have.