If in doubt, blame “the media.” That’s been a time-tested escape valve for politicians who do or say crazy and/or stupid things, and President Trump jumped onto the blame the media bandwagon as soon as he announced he was running for president.
Trump and his spokespersons (politically correct terminology) have escalated their hate the media campaign since our new president took the oath of office last month. When the president stands in front of the CIA’s solemn memorial wall and argues about the crowd size at his inauguration, or when he picks fights with journalists who ask him tough questions (think Megyn Kelly), Trump often blames the media for his own missteps, and that’s easy to do because so many Americans hate “the media.”
As someone who has worked in and around the media for more than 50 years, I’d like to weigh in on the question of whether the news media are as horrible as many people think. For starters, I think we need to define “the media,” an amorphous term by any definition. In the Internet era news media run the gamut from traditional media — press, radio and TV — to myriad news and political websites, some of which (think Breitbart or the Huffington Post) are so biased and/or one-sided we can’t believe anything they say. Other celebrity-based websites have little if anything to do with real news, as I understood that term when I graduated from the University of Washington Journalism School in Seattle many years ago.
I hasten to acknowledge that “mainstream media” — the New York Times, Washington Post and three old TV networks — are hopelessly liberal, and that most working journalists lean to the left, as I did when I graduated from journalism school. We just wanted to save the world. Some surveys assert at least 75 percent of working journalists are liberal Democrats, and I share that assessment. Nevertheless, conservatives now have strong voices in the national media, starting with Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, conservative websites and many community newspapers around the country. I won’t try to categorize the Nevada Appeal except to note it publishes a wide range of opinions on its opinion pages.
I’m old enough to remember when President Johnson and Gen. William Westmoreland blamed the media for losing the Vietnam War. It couldn’t have been because the president and his generals made bad decisions, right? I heard plenty of blame the media rhetoric when, as a former journalist, I attended the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., in the late 1970s, and more of the same in 1983 when I was the U.S. spokesman in Grenada. The first commander of Operation Urgent Fury, a feisty Navy admiral, wanted to re-fight the Vietnam War before he was sent home, and we were able to tell a rather positive story.
Fast forward 34 years and we’re hearing a steady stream of blame the media rhetoric emanating from the Trump White House and fervent “Trumpistas” in all 50 states, and even during political discussions right here in Carson City. These folks cheer whenever the president, Kellyanne Conway or Sean Spicer trash “the media,” and I join in when they change age-old, “traditional” rules in the White House Press Room. In that sense, change is good.
President Trump can bypass the media with his nocturnal “tweets,” but I wish he’d think before hitting the “send” button. Nonetheless, one of my right-wing friends tells me The Donald is engaging in a brilliant and carefully planned PR campaign; however, when he makes a fool of himself, let’s blame the president, and not “the media.”
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.
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