67. Is Our Press Losing Its Ideals?

25 Aug

I just saw an interview with former Governor Howard Dean. He expressed a thought that I have had for several years now: that much of USA Press has been corrupted and does not fairly and intelligently present the news. Of course, many individual reporters and commentators do a very good job. Some of the best and bravest are Eleanor Clift, Fahreed Zacharia, Michael Moore, Bill Maher, Arianna Huffington, and a number of others. But there is a major trend to present news that is sensational and sells, rather than an accurate and fair presentation of facts. And often there is a clear avoidance of anything that might offend our rich “Royalty Class”, which includes most leaders of industry and government.

In the case of Hillary Clinton, there is a tendency to overly emphasize innuendo. They repeat over and over things that could be wrong but in fact are not wrong. If, for example, Hillary meets with a company CEO or major donor, it is often reported with an implication of suspicion. The Washington Post (usually an excellent paper) is emphasizing the large number of charitable donors that she meets with, implying that something is wrong. An article title calls her “shady”.  The Clinton Foundation does wonderful charitable work and why the Washington Post wants to tarnish her is beyond me — and it does not help that buried deep in an article they say everything is OK. Further, Hillary is very good at getting political donors and that also is ridiculed by the media. All the best elected officials are great at getting donors and it is not their fault that this is necessary. In these times, a huge amount of financial support is required for all high governmental positions. Message to liberal press: ease up on Hillary or suffer a Trump presidency.

The misinterpretation of emails by everyone including the press is deplorable. For example, an email states that someone (suspicious?) is trying to contact the Secretary of State. The mere fact that someone is trying to make a contact is not worthy of reporting, but it is often reported with unwarranted speculation.

Nasty unreasonable speculation excites the readers and sells newspapers and advertising, but can have the effect of devastating character assassination. Suppose you were walking down the street and a notorious crook just asks if you have the time. What if a reporter sees this and states that you have had a contact with this gangster. At the end of the story the reporter may clarify that there is no proof of wrongdoing — but the damage has been done. People often just remember the headlines and never get to the clarifications.

Sometimes the facts are totally misrepresented or important details are omitted. Wolf Blitzer once remarked that Al Gore called President Obama a failure. The fact is that Al Gore only said that Obama failed in promoting climate-change remedies. Many people, of course, only remember the first statement and never got to the clarification.

In another example, Obama was criticized for not immediately visiting the flooding in Louisiana. This was often reported without mentioning that Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards suggested the delay, as a presidential visit could interfere with rescue efforts. Presenting only part of the story can be very damaging.

One of the most annoying errors is the reporting that Democrats want to raise taxes, implying that the raise would be for everyone. What Democrats actually say is that they want to raise taxes for very rich people and not at all for the rest of us. This can have a profound influence on voters choices.

I have observed Chuck Todd (of Meet the Press) badgering Trump about more superficial issues, but rarely have I seen him attack on the most important issues such as taxation. It seems that most reporters and commentators are afraid to bring up financial issues, perhaps because they could offend the rich owners of their media . Why do they let Trump get away with obvious lies like Hillary is a co-founder of ISIS? He repeated this on several days and finally said he was being “sarcastic.”

We would hope that the Press, a necessary part of any democracy, would be able to help people separate the lies from the truth. I watch many news programs and see spirited discussions of trivia while the profound and history-making issues are ignored. Ask yourself what Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite would say about Trump and today’s reporting of issues.

In researching for this blog, I came upon a couple of wonderful quotes by Walter Cronkite (CBS news anchor from 1962 to 1981) listed on a Google search page.
“America’s health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.”
“In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.”
I guess the current problems have been around for a long time. Maybe it is Trump’s bizarre candidacy and his manipulation of the Press that has exacerbated the apparent corruption.

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