Washington Post Media Columnist Blames Distrust of Media on Trump

Democracy dies in a total lack of self-awareness.

The media not only constantly lies. It insists on living in a fantasy world in which all of its sins are really the fault of its targets. And now here's Margaret Sullivan, the media columnist for the Washington Post.

In the year since Donald Trump was elected president, the national news media has congratulated itself on a new golden age of accountability journalism.

By accountability journalism, Margie means opposition research and hit pieces. But despite this golden age of hit pieces, the public doesn't believe WaPo. It must be Trump's fault.

But in another crucial way, the reality-based press has failed. Too often, it has succumbed to the chaos of covering Trump, who lies and blusters and distracts at every turn.... Nonetheless, each news cycle is an exhausting, confusing blast of conflicting claims, fact-checking, reactions and outrage.

How big was the Inauguration Day crowd? What contact did Michael Flynn have with Russians? Why was James B. Comey fired? Is Puerto Rico being ignored after the hurricane? Did Trump insult a Gold Star widow when he telephoned her?

Trump drives the news, all day and every day, a human fire hose of hyperbolic tweets, insults, oversimplification and bragging.

Except it isn't really Trump driving the news. It's your obsessive attacks on him.

Most of what Sullivan names are manufactured media scandals, that the media ginned up, then obsessively covered as part of a partisan political campaign against Trump.

“I don’t think we’ve figured out how to deal with the Trump noise machine,” said Daniel Dale, a Canadian who covers Washington for the Toronto Star, which gives him both an insider’s and outsider’s perspective.

Except it's not Trump's noise machine. It's the media's noise machine. And it's a noise machine in the same way your co-worker is when he keeps ranting about the DMV. When you obsessively hate someone, you lose all self-control and begin ranting. That's what the media is doing. And most people tune out ranters. They're exhausting to listen to.

And then there’s the huge influence of Fox News, which early last week was discussing hamburger emoji as the rest of the national media was reporting the indictments of Trump associates.

The hamburger emoji thing is typical of the media developing its own obsessions that no one else cares about. In this case, the media resents Fox News for disrupting its total narrative dominance.

This feeling of mistrust and disagreement on facts is backed up by public opinion polls: One reported last month that 46 percent of Americans believe the news media simply makes things up about Trump.

I can't imagine why. Maybe it's all the made up stories credited to anonymous sources.

 

News organizations have tried to push back with mottos and ad campaigns cropping up like mushrooms: CBS touts “Real News.” CNN trotted out “Facts First.” And the New York Times offered “The Truth is More Important Than Ever.”

When people don't trust you, roll out an ad campaign. Don't raise your standards, just pay people to make up a slogan about how truthful you are.

“If nothing the president says can be trusted, reporting what the president says becomes absurd,” wrote New York University professor Jay Rosen. This runs up against the journalistic code: to respect the voters’ choice, to respect the office of the presidency and to respect what they do for a living.

I think we've all spent the past year witnessing the media's respect for voters and the office of the presidency. Much as we witnessed it under Bush and Reagan.

The truth is more important than ever.

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