Letter: Media outlets need to look in the mirror

Letter: Media outlets need to look in the mirror

After reading the editorial in the Westerly Sun on Thursday, Aug. 16, “Hey Mr. Trump, journalists are not the enemy,” I suggest removing your blinders and looking in the mirror. I dismissed your regurgitation of Democratic talking points as a requirement for writing this editorial. I do not endorse or condone many of President Trump’s comments, but his attack on “dishonest journalists” as “enemies of the people” is actually consistent in presidential history.

Yes, he is not kind to those reporters who have allowed their bias to color their reporting. Can you tell me when there were so many breathtaking exposés, almost always attributable to anonymous sources, having to be retracted or corrected? What about the number of reporters forced from their jobs for such egregious acts? What about Fact Checkers who get their facts wrong, even when confronted with video and/or published proof?

You described the mainstream media as “news outlets that actually report sourced, vetted news, not opinions…” The problem is you have associated yourself with a cabal of MSM outlets that do not fit your definition.

Mr. Trump attacks many journalists, but not all, for spreading “fake news.” As I remember the schoolyard taunt: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Would you reprint your editorial that decried the Obama DOJ’s spying on Fox News reporter James Rosen, or tracking the phone calls of Associated Press reporters? That went beyond name-calling.

Your editorial would have been more powerful had you reread the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy report on media coverage of the first 100 days of the Trump administration. It documented that Mr. Trump is not the first president to attack the press as “enemies of the people.” What it found was extreme negativity in the coverage of this president. As the report stated: “Of news reports with a clear tone, negative reports outpaced positive ones by 80 percent to 20 percent. Trump’s coverage was unsparing. In no week did the coverage drop below 70 percent negative and it reached 90 percent negative at its peak.” The coverage tone has continued.

The Shorenstein report concluded:

“At the same time, the news media need to give Trump credit when his actions warrant it. The public’s low level of confidence in the press is the result of several factors, one of which is a belief that journalists are biased. That perception weakens the press’s watchdog role. One of the more remarkable features of news coverage of Trump’s first 100 days is that it has changed few minds about the president, for better or worse. The nation’s watchdog has lost much of its bite and won’t regain it until the public perceives it as an impartial broker, applying the same reporting standards to both parties. The news media’s exemplary coverage of Trump’s cruise missile strike on Syria illustrates the type of even-handedness that needs to be consistently and rigorously applied.”

Please encourage your compatriots to start being professional again.

G. Allen Brooks


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