OPINION — Newspapers Have Themselves, Not Trump, To Blame For “Enemy of The People” Designation!

by | Aug 16, 2018

 

The 350 newspapers that participated in today’s coordinated response to Donald Trump’s anti-press rhetoric are barking up the wrong tree.
Not a single editorial I’ve read even mentions the heart of the problem.
And it’s not Donald Trump.
To find the culprit of the increasing distrust in the newspapers, the executives who green-lighted today’s editorials should just look in their mirrors.
Chances are they will not see Trump.
The fact an unqualified so-called leader who may be mentally unstable manages to whip a country into an anti-press frenzy, the First Amendment be damned, is mostly a function of the press relinquishing its power and political pull in the name of profits..
And when there’s a power vacuum anywhere, there’s always a bottom-feeder ready to wiggle in.
As far as I’m concerned, and I spent 30 years in newspapers, the press has abdicated its right to gripe about Trump’s violations to good taste and the Constitution.
Whether on the local or national levels, safe for a few exceptions, newspapers have been gobbled up by faceless hedge fund-backed corporations like Digital First Media, some even with strong foreign ties like GateHouse Media.
Their goals aren’t to produce top-flight journalism and hold the feet of politicians to the public’s fire. It’s to squeeze as much money as humanly possible from a dying medium.
To manufacture profits, these blobs of financial jackassery have done little more than slashing and burning the human capital in newsrooms, and most have invested nothing into the media they control. Over the past 18 months, 36 percent of the same newspapers crying that they’re not, as Trump claims, the enemies of the people, have shed jobs, according to Pew Research Center For the People & the Press.
Between 2014 and 2017, these newspapers laid off 15 percent of the workforce – in the wake of another decade of steep layoffs.
If they’re not the enemies of the people, they’re definitely the enemies of democracy.
Since 2004, by the way, 1,800 local newspapers have closed, according to University of North Carolina research.
The direct results of budget cuts, layoffs and closings, in addition to the human tragedies, has been an overworked and underpaid workforce of underwhelming quality that has allowed local, state and national politicians, including Trump, to remain largely unaccountable for their actions.
Most newspapers of any mid-sized city in the United States once had a slew of reporters working the Washington, D.C., scene.
Those guys are gone.
Most newspapers in any small city had reporters working state capitals.
They’ve vanished, too.
City hall?
Not much there. The city hall reporter also covers four other cities and two counties.
Yet, political corruption hasn’t gone anywhere.
If anything, it has flared up like never before as the 350 newspapers that blame Trump and his local political heirs have worked themselves into the unenviable position of powerless eunuchs.
Information is power.
But when one’s idea of information is the opening of a new WaWa instead of health violations at Trump’s local chichi clubs or campaign contributions to candidates for office, don’t blame the president for how the public sees the information provider.
Covering Trump and other politicians has become little more than a Twitter check on which the press builds phony outrage.
That’s easy to do. And real cheap, too.
Once in a great while, someone reads a court document pertaining to the prosecution of the Trump campaign’s cozy ties to Russia and writes a story.
That’s easy, too. The facts are spelled out.
It used to be that investigations like the one currently conducted by Robert Mueller would base some of its findings on stories first reported in newspapers. Now, it’s the other way around.
It used to be that, through impeccable sourcing and reporting, newspapers could pressure a president into resigning.
No mas, as they say in Miami.
There’s a lot more ugliness to Trump than his Twitter feed, but the press is ignoring that because investigative journalism is expensive.
The press doesn’t need point a finger at Trump to reestablish a semblance of credibility.
It needs to ditch the hedge funds and rely on local ownership, rich people who care about their communities and are willing to lose a few bucks.
So, spare me the disingenuous editorials.
Trump is a symptom, not the disease.
And the disease mentioned in today’s editorials festers in the corporate offices of newspaper investors, not in the White House.

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