January 1, 2017

It's inevitable that the end of the year leads to some retrospective of journalism during this past election season. And let's be honest, it's desperately needed. The mainstream media needs to own that there is a reason that public trust in the media is lower than it's ever been before.

So Meet the Press host Chuck Todd brings on David Folkenflik of NPR, Hal Boedeker of The Orlando Sentinel, Claire Atkinson of The New York Post, and Gabe Sherman of New York Magazine to talk about the nature of journalism during this chaotic and frustrating election season. And it's a perfect example of how mainstream journalists circle around the issues and then miss the real lessons completely.

Todd wants to know how these reporters manage objectivity in the Age of Trump, the very question belying that all of them know the media was NOT objective in their coverage. But that's all the reporter panel needs to protest that really, they were negative towards Trump.

CLAIRE ATKINSON: Harvard Kennedy School had a report out last week. They look-- They analyze positive and negative news reports. And they found that during the election, Trump had a 77% negative and Clinton had 64 and it was almost the inverse for the full campaign. But the point they were making was--

CHUCK TODD: They both got negative press is what you're saying.

CLAIRE ATKINSON: --they both had very, very negative press.

CHUCK TODD: And they had both negative favorable ratings.

Both got negative press? Please. A Harvard study found that Hillary Clinton got far more negative press. And yes, Chuck, they BOTH had unfavorable ratings. The difference being--and one that no one on the panel seems to grasp--is that Trump's negative coverage came from things that he actually did. He did brag about sexually assaulting women. He did brag about cheating people and using other people's money to make him rich. He did brag that he could shoot someone on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue and not lose support. He did pay a multi-million dollar settlement to people he defrauded with his Trump University. He could break every single norm that our fragile democracy rests on and shrug at the "negative" coverage. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, got mountains of negative coverage about accusations others made of her, not things she actually did.

Granted, she used a private server during her State Dept. tenure (something she shared with Colin Powell, but you know, IOKIYAR), but years and multiple investigations (at the cost of 100s of millions of our tax dollars--those fiscally responsible Republicans!) resulted in ZERO charges, ZERO indictments and ZERO evidence of the corruption or crookedness the media covered ad nauseam. And boy, did they cover it. And generally speaking, they'd breathlessly repeat right wing smears with little more than a buried admission that there might be no substance behind the accusation.

But proving that the mainstream media (which Chuck Todd has repeatedly refused to accept as a term) still doesn't get it, listen to Hal Boedeker of the Orlando Sentinel describe going home for the holidays and how responsible he felt to inform even his family:

And they were just both so unpopular. I mean, just unpopular. I mean, I went home, asked my dad and my brother, "Would you have ever thought of voting for Hillary Clinton?" And they both laughed and they dropped some expletives and they went off on how corrupt they thought she was. So then my dad starts criticizing Trump. And I'm just like-- And he goes, "Well, he has to be better than what we have." So I think maybe the media missed this frustration out there in the heartland. I think that may be one strand that wasn't in the coverage.

There you go, Mr. Journalist. YOUR OWN FAMILY was repeating unsubstantiated lies about how corrupt she was, information they got from where? And where was your responsibility to correct it? Your dad complains about Trump and then posits that a man who has shown no understanding how government is run much less how to act like a leader on the international stage would be better than the government that saved us from a global economic meltdown and what you took away from that is that the media missed the frustration in the heartland?

How about they missed how much they were misinforming the heartland?

How about they missed how much their own animus towards Hillary Clinton played into the asymmetric coverage?

How about they missed how there were literally no consequences to Donald Trump flouting the norms and conventions that we've required of every other presidential candidates?

How about they were so busy bringing up the non-scandals of Benghazi and emails as balance every time Trump said, did or tweeted something utterly disqualifying?

Yes, we need to have a conversation about how journalism will operate in the Age of Trump. But first, it has to start with journalists getting some intellectual honesty and understanding why people think they can't be trusted.

Can you help us out?

For nearly 20 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.