President puts fake label on people’s best friend

In the 20 years I worked in news rooms for small, middle-sized and large newspapers, I always thought of them as the court of last resort for people who couldn’t get their voices heard any other way.

If the average Jack or Jill couldn’t get satisfaction in city hall, in the halls of higher level politics, the police stations, or the court rooms, he or she could always call a reporter. If the story was compelling enough or the transgression stunk enough, the journalist would bring it up in the columns of the paper. Not always, but sometimes, corrective actions would follow.

I looked at journalists as friends of the little guy, of the people.

News people are among the mostly poorly paid professions, unless you are one of rare birds who hits the big time. But, as in athletics, only a small percentage ever see six-figure incomes. Many have to leave the news room to earn a decent living. The ones who stay do it because it’s a calling, much like that of a parish priest or minister or teacher.

In the 30 subsequent years when I worked in business and dabbled in public policy analysis, I had more distance from and objectivity about the press. I got misquoted a few times and once got outed as a source by a rogue reporter to whom I had given categorically confidential information. It was the only time I ever experienced a reporter burning a source. But most of the time the news people get it right.

Reporters do make mistakes. And they all carry inherent biases by virtue of where they came from as human beings.
But, by and large, mostly large, the journalists I know and read work very hard to dig out the facts, to seek the real stories, find the truth in a complex world, to be as objective and even-handed as then can be. I am not talking about narcissistic talk show hosts who are primarily entertainers. I am talking about real journalists, who all catch a lot of criticism and some of whom die or go to jail protecting a source.

Incidentally, most journalists are well educated, not like the old days when it was a trade where you worked your way up the ladder. That said, young news people go through an apprenticeship of sorts. Like most of them, I started writing obituaries, in my case at the Minneapolis Tribune. The old geezer editors on the copy desk delighted in finding minute mistakes in cub reporter copy and let the whole news room know about it. We weren’t turned loose on news stories until we got their passing grade. Then the young reporters worked the small stuff until the news editors deemed you ready for bigger stories.
It is always the height of embarrassment in the news room to have to run a correction, which most papers do when they do screw up.

Here’s the point: accuracy and getting the facts right is preeminent in the world of real journalism.

I know from business that you can ‘t be successful without facts and a fairly good perception of reality. Problems have to well defined to be solved. Businesses need news people try to lay out the many of the realities of the day. Smart business leaders scan dozens of publications as one way to figure out where to go next.

I know also that a robust dialogue inside a business is the best way to find effective solutions to problems. There’s the famous line that applies to leaders: if you are the smartest guy in the room, you are in big trouble.

The work of the nation’s press is to provide the platform for a healthy national dialogue, like the ones now raging on immigration and trade wars. Who could make sound judgments about those issues without reading about them in semi-objective reports and analyses?

So, it strikes me as an affront to democracy and common sense to hear President Trump label the nation’s press as “enemies of the people.” He has said, “Journalists are the most dishonest people on earth.”

The great irony in his “running war” with the press is that it was their incredulous over-the-top coverage of his campaign that created the publicity that got him elected. They were painfully aware that he was using and manipulating them, but still gave him reams of coverage. Like him or not, he was and is newsworthy.

The master of insult, he has since used journalists as scapegoats to deflect from where his presidency has come up short. He simply cannot stand reporting or commentary that does not line up with his self-centered messaging about his own performance.
He calls their reporting “fake news,” this from a man who is infamous for factual errors, misleading statements, exaggeration to the max and for walking back yesterday’s tweets. The accurate rejoinder is that he is the master of fictitious messaging. He creates a blizzard of B.S.

Our president’s biographer says he likes the term “truthful hyperbole” to describe his misleading statements. Some observers of his language say that occurs with some 70% of his utterances.

This country has always needed a free and strong press. That reality is more so now than ever. How else are we going to sort through the Trumpian tower of babble? He is the enemy of the truth.

News people are the American people’s best friend.

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  • John Q. Public

    “News people are the American people’s best friend”. Umm, where you live John Torinus? Here in the Heartland and across the nation, Americans have a staggering distrust for Newspapers and Media Outlets. 72% of Americans think news sources report news they know to be fake, false or purposely misleading (https://www.axios.com/trump-effect-92-percent-republicans-media-fake-news-9c1bbf70-0054-41dd-b506-0869bb10f08c.html). And before you go blaming Trump on this distrust, maybe take a look at a 2012 Gallup Poll which found 60% Americans saying they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly (https://news.gallup.com/poll/157589/distrust-media-hits-new-high.aspx).
    But how could one blame the American people for this negative sentiment towards the press? After the amplification of lies that lead this nation into the quagmire that was (is) the 2nd Iraqi invasion, after New York Times editors were exposed for covering up domestic spying programs at the behest of the Baby Bush and Obama administrations, and after the disgusting portrayal of the last presidential election; Americans are right to distrust media.
    “I looked at journalists as friends of the little guy, of the people.” Yeah right, maybe in 1950 whatever (honestly, not even then). But here in the 21st century “things done changed”. You may be aware that 90% of TV media is owned by 6 companies, right? As the organization FAIR observed “when correspondents and paid consultants on NBC television praised the performance of U.S. weapons, they were extolling equipment made by GE, the corporation that pays their salaries.” Gotta love those corporations, always looking out for the “little guy”. Maybe you heard Newspapers are bleeding millions ever year and might be publishing online content that could be classified as “click-bait” in search of revenue. You mentioned the embarrassment newspapers faced when printing a correction. Today, you’d be lucky to see any mention of a correction at all when you can just change web page content and no one will be the wiser. Further, because of media cross-ownership and companies seeking ever higher profits, news outlets now report mass produced content, and through convergence, report the same stories over multiple platforms (thus less voices being heard from within communities, and less money being spent on content “creation”). See that Sinclaire video? But yeah, looking out for the “little guy”.
    “This country has always needed a free and strong press.” No John Tornius, this country was GUARANTEED a free press. A “strong” press sounds creepy and is kind-of what we got now (especially with the tech giants stepping in as media platforms). Maybe you meant something along the lines of a “watchdog” press?
    I’ll leave you with Edward Bernays ” The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” A bit prescient, don’t you think? Don’t be such a Pollyannish and credulous rube; because the content in today’s US Media is starkly biased and mass produced. The only “friends” mainstream journalist are of is their editors and the corporation they work for. The only “thing” mainstream journalists “look out for” are their continued paychecks.

    • JohnTorinus

      I can’t recall being successfully manipulated by anyone. Have you ever been in a news room?

      • Tim

        Oh poor Torinus thinks the media is being treated badly. You really think journalists as a whole are honest good people? What the hell world do you live in? Did you ever turn on CNN or MSNBC and listen to the Trump bashing that goes on 24/7? You must be totally delusional if you think otherwise. This is 2018 and not 1978 when the journalists were actually doing their jobs. This is another reason people read your garbage and take it as that, garbage!! Go away John and stop writing your garbage because no one is listening to you.

        • JohnTorinus

          Thanks for the respectful dialogue.

        • JohnTorinus

          By the way, what’s your real name. You should man up and stand behind your insults. Trump does.

          • Tim

            Doesn’t matter what my real name is. The fact is you have been ridiculing Trump since he became the nominee because he wasn’t your guy. Guess what Torinus no one is listening to you. I’m not the only one who is sick and tired of people like you ridiculing the guy 24/7 and yet you have the guts to say that journalists are good honest people? Get real!!

          • JohnTorinus

            It does matter that you are too chicken to put you name on your insults. I put my name on my stuff. Why not you?

          • Tim

            Oh go cry up a river Johnny.

      • John Q. Public

        You can’t recall ever in your life being successfully manipulated? I can help. One example on a macro-level: did you criticize the Baby Bush administration (after 9/11 up until the 2nd invasion of Iraq 2003) for using bogus (cherry-picked) intelligence and circular evidence, all while the media was banging the war drums? If no, was it because of the possibility of being castigated a “loon” and “traitor” by society and those in the journalistic profession? If that was the case, you were successfully manipulated. However, if you did in fact criticize the Bush administration’s reasoning and evidence for war, why didn’t you alert the people? As a member of the press (and as the American people’s best friend), you have a responsibility to do such. I can’t find you writing any such thing (but I’ve seen your “Paul, Huntsman raise bar on going to war” and similar pieces, but they were clearly written after the fact when opposing the neo-cons became in vogue).
        On a micro-level: 1) have you ever fallen victim to an advertisement only to find out that the advertised product doesn’t in fact make you more popular with the ladies or create an “insta-party” or 2) purchased a movie ticket based on a trailer only to be disappointed that the film isn’t quite as advertised? If so, you were successfully manipulated.
        On a comical level: 1) have you ever talked with the opposite sex? 2) Do you have children or grandchildren? They have never successfully manipulated you (are you really a robot)?
        Finally (thanks for sticking with me), no I have never worked in a news room. But I did have a paper route as a kid and I saw season 5 of “The Wire”, so, basically same thing (/sarc). I’ve also never been shot in the face nor enslaved, but I got opinions on those things as well.