I read an interesting opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal today. BLUF: Donald Trump has spent the past year and a half trolling the news media with everything from outright lies, to outrageous statements, to egotistical exaggeration, but it’s all part of a greater strategy: to send the media off on pointless “fact checking” errands in search of intrinsically worthless data.
Meanwhile, Trump does what Trump does.
Now that he is president, reporters assigned to Mr. Trump are in a tough position. They have to pay close attention to what the White House says, but they know the White House may give them garbage and dare them to spend an entire working day trying to verify or debunk it. Meanwhile Mr. Trump will make the ordinary decisions any president must make—court nominations, executive orders, negotiations with foreign leaders—while reporters are off trying to disprove some idiotic claim about the president’s approval ratings. They’ll feel as if they’re in an impossible bind, trolled into looking the other way, futilely insisting on their authority as the nation’s guardians of truth.
I’ve often said on this very blog that I don’t care about the idiot minutiae that the media digs up on 45. I don’t care how many books he’s sold. I don’t care how big his inauguration crowds were compared with 44. I don’t care if and when he opposed the Iraq war. He wasn’t a public official back then – merely a bloviating rich guy – and it’s completely irrelevant to me what he said on the Howard Stern show about the Iraq war more than a decade ago. While the media goes off chasing down Trump’s latest claims, blows hot air about which Trump lawsuits we should be keeping track of in 2017, and dutifully covering Charlie Sheen’s tweets about how much he hates Trump, Trump’s National Security Adviser Flynn was chatting on the phone with his Russian counterpart – on the day sanctions were announced. Now, I’m not saying he revealed anything about the sanctions, but the optics aren’t good, given his connections to the Russians. Two weeks later, the media was catching up. “Oh! He spoke to the Russians on the day Treasury announced sanctions!”
Barton Swaim, the author of the column, suggests that the media are going to have to find new ways to deal with Trump. He doesn’t do business in any way they’re used to, whether you agree with him or not.
I would suggest the media start actually covering the story, covering the presidency, and letting us know what is going on, rather than wasting time spinning, “fact-checking,” and analyzing every word he says to death, in an attempt to discredit him.
If you’re going to be the “nation’s guardians of truth,” perhaps you should start by reporting actual news rather than chasing down silly, inconsequential claims. Stop digging for ways to discredit Trump on stupid issues, such as how many people attended his inauguration. Nobody gives a shit! You are reporters. So report, goddamit! Report accurately. Report the truth. Leave spin and analysis at the door, because frankly, most of you aren’t sufficiently versed in policy to analyze it.
Stop blurring the line between journalism and editorializing. No one gives a fuck what you think. Report the story, and let the audience decide what they think about it.
Confirm accuracy before publishing stories with buzzwords such as “unverified,” in a pathetic effort to beat everyone to the story. Verify.
And most of all, make rational decisions about what is important to the American people, and leave Buzzfeed, Breitbart, and other clickbait purveyors to their tabloid chaff.