2016 Campaign's Biggest Loser: Journalism


I have a story today in the New York Observer about the wretched state of political journalism, which nowadays, as the Podesta emails have shown, has been mostly reduced to surrogacy on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

Every time I write anything for the Observer someone rushes to point out that it’s a pro-Trump newspaper. Yes, it is, but at least openly so and hence there is truth in advertising. And I’ve never had any problem writing things critical about Trump in the Observer, for example, from today’s story:

We have two unbelievably shitty candidates, neither of whom is fit to lead the country. Donald Trump is a reckless narcissist who, as his debate performances indicated, cannot string together more than two sentences, let alone articulate a coherent vision for the country’s future. His remarks about women, Latinos and African-Americans are reprehensible and, whether he believes his own statements or is merely trying to stir up anger for his electoral benefit, have emboldened people who hold retrograde and genuinely scary views.

The problem with much of the media is that there’s a pretense of impartiality, that the Podesta emails have mercilessly exposed as fraudulent. Among the various examples I cite in the story is Politico reporter Glenn Thrush apologizing to Podesta for writing a story draft that he worried was too critical. “I have become a hack I will send u the whole section that pertains to u,” he wrote. “Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this Tell me if I fucked up anything.” On bended knee would have been more dignified.

I also noted a column by the New York Times‘ Jim Rutenberg, who made clear that he and other reporters viewed “a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous,” which required them to report on him with a particularly critical point of view. This, he said, would make journalists “move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional,” which would be “uncomfortable and uncharted territory.”

There are so many things wrong with all this that it’s hard to know where to start. How is it that the media has derogated to itself the right to decide what candidates deserve special scrutiny and what policies are acceptable? In a democracy, that is supposed to be the voters’ job.

And worst of all is Rutenberg’s statement about the role of journalists. “All governments are run by liars and nothing they say should be believed,” I.F. Stone once wrote. “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations,” said George Orwell. For those two self-evident reasons, being “oppositional” is the only place political journalists should ever be, no matter who is in power or who is campaigning.

Read the whole story here.

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Politically eclectic DC-based investigative journalist and CEO, Chief Sleaze Purveyor (CSP) and Creator of WashingtonBabylon.com.