Saturday, September 17, 2016

Cillizza Tries to Answer Media Critics

Give him points for trying. He responded to long term media critic Norm Ornstein in an email conversation.

Having said that, Cillizza just doesn't get it. He rather amazingly thinks the media may have been too tough on Donald Trump. Too tough on Hitler 2.0, on someone who threatens the very Republic as the American Caesar.

"I fundamentally disagree with the idea that Trump has received a different sort — and a better sort — of coverage. I actually think some elements of the media have been overly critical of Trump because they cannot believe that someone with Trump’s views — and approach — has become one of the two party nominees. There is a disdain and a dismissiveness bordering on elitism in some parts of the media directed toward Trump."

Could it be because he's a racist, crypto fascist? Evidently these are forgivable character traits for Cillizza. But Cillizza, just like the NY Times editor Liz Spayd and I saw in a conversation I had with USA Today's Paul Singer on Twitter, completely misses the point on Trump's coverage. They don't get the difference between reporting on a particular fact and investigating it.

"And, again, when it comes to your references to Bannon and others: We wrote all about Bannon’s background and his controversial statements. That it didn’t change people’s minds about Trump isn’t really the media’s responsibility. We just don’t have that power."

Appreciate what Cillizza is basically saying. This is what everyone from Liz Spayd to Politico's Jack Shafer has done:

"In defending their recent coverage of this year’s presidential race, reporters and representatives of major media organizations have frequently suggested—in various ways, implicitly, and explicitly—that their liberal critics are motivated by crude partisanship rather than any neutral or high-minded concerns."

Basically they are saying: 'You liberals are just frustrated that you have nominated this really bad candidate and her and Trump are neck and neck. We report on all Trump's crazy talk but the voters don't care. Sorry.'

But this misses the point. And this whole debate over 'false equivalence' has been obscured by Beltway journalists who hand wave the critics away. The point is not that journalists should take sides between candidates or parties.

They simply need to tell the truth. Josh Marshall had a very good recent piece on how the media has changed. Since media monopolization, the media has changed its role.

It used to aspire to be the arbiter of truth. Again, I said aspire. Obviously the media of that time was not infallible-far from it. No human being or human institution could be.
But they at least had the aspiration and that mattered. Now the media conceives its role not as an arbiter of truth but as a kind of neutral umpire or referee between two squabbling candidates or parties.

It's main concern now is being 'fair' rather than just telling the truth. And yesterday, ironically enough, Cillizza's own paper covered itself in glory by showing how you avoid what we critics have called 'false equivalence' but maybe there's a better term for it.

The headline: Trump admits Obama born in U.S. but falsely blames Clinton for starting rumors

See? That's all it takes. Forget about debates over objectivity and partisanship. Just simply report the news accurately. If someone says something you as a reporter know to be a lie: then say so.

Unlike Matt Lauer and Chris Wallace.

The NY Times initially screwed up unlike WaPo who added the key word 'falsely' without which you're back in what we call false equivalence but really us just misinforming the pubic.

Without 'falsely' the reader is tuck with a debate about 'Who's the real birther?'

However, the Times corrected it later. Here is the editorial board:

"Donald Trump’s Latest Birther Lie."

"The standard words for campaign mishaps — “flip-flop,” “retreat,” “walk-back” — simply do not apply to this candidate’s spirals through unreality."

Was that so hard? That's all you need to do. You don't' have to be 'partisan' or square a circle. Just call a lie a lie.

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