Friday, September 16, 2016

Trump's Birther Infomercial is a Big Test for Journalists

As Matt Yglesias says:

"Trump got 25 minutes of free airtime, then issued a brief statement that was totally false. Big test for journalists."

Indeed. As Chris Cillizza says, the media got rolled.

"Trump's assertions about Clinton's role in the birther movement are wrong. His simple statement that Obama was born in the United States directly contradicts myriad statements he has made questioning the president's birthplace over the past five years."

"But neither of those things were the most amazing part of that Trump event. The most amazing thing was that it took the Republican nominee 29 minutes to deliver those three sentences. The event was slated to start at 10 a.m. ET. It wasn't until 11 a.m. that it actually began — with Trump touting his new hotel and proclaiming that it is likely to be one of the best in the world. He then ceded the stage to a parade of decorated military veterans who testified to his toughness, his judgment and his temperament."

"Cable networks seemed to not know what to do. All three of them — MSNBC, Fox News and CNN — stayed with the generals' testimonials for the better part of 20 minutes. That's a remarkable amount of free cable time to dedicate to a series of surrogates testifying how great one of the two party nominees is."

"When was the last time CNN covered a full Clinton event with multiple surrogate speakers? This is unreal."

"The networks eventually cut away from the generals but then Trump was back at the mic — roughly 90 minutes after his event was originally slated to start. Meaning that he drew an hour and a half of live coverage for:

1. An empty podium

2. A series of military endorsements/testimonials

3. Three sentences from Trump himself — one that is totally false and two others that represent a total reversal from a position he held as recently as, well, Thursday night.

"It was a low moment for politics and political coverage. A nothing-burger filled with falsehoods covered as though it was the Super Bowl. But for Trump, it might have been his crowning achievement: All eyes on him with the chance to direct the play in whatever way he saw fit. The ringmaster — calling the shots in all three rings of the circus. It was peak Trump." as Brian Beutler says, it's not too late for journalists to cover this race properly.

The NY Times has again showed how not to cover this election and the Washington Post again shows journalists how to. 

You've had these arguments from  NY Time's public editor Liz Spayd and  Politico's Jack Shafer that liberal media critics are demanding that the media not cover the election fairly or that the media simply be biased towards Hilary Clinton. I had an interesting discussion with Paul Singer at USA Today and he too didn't get it. 

But check out the disparate coverage of Trump's birther infomercial:

"Compare the WashPost and NYT leads. Post is the one that bothers to mention Trump's false accusation about Clinton."

This is what the critics of media critics miss. We're not asking anything so difficult. The AP reporting on the birther infomercial failed:

BREAKING: Donald Trump reverses himself and acknowledges fact that President Barack Obama was born in the United States."

That's how not to do it. The NY Times also-again-failed just as AP has failed again and again.

The Times headline falsely claimed he retreated from birtherism. No he did not.

"To say Trump retreated from birtherism implies he acknowledged espousing it. Instead he made something up about Hillary."

Exactly. His birther infomercial was no more a reversal on birtherism than his Dr. Oz infomercial conveyed any new medial information.

But the Washington Post shows it's not so hard to report accurately. It doesn't mean you take sides in politics or 'Choose not to be fair' as one particularly silly pundit argued yesterday.

No. The Washington Post got it right today; they're coverage has often been far superior to NYT's Trump coverage.

"Excellent coverage from @wpjenna shows it’s perfectly possible to do this right at a traditional newspaper."

To prove this is not about squaring a circle, here is how the Washington Post reported it.

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

The key word here is 'falsely' before 'blame.' If you didn't have the word falsely you;d get the totally wrong picture. Then as Chris Hayes worried, you end up in a debate: 

Both sides call each other birthers, but who's the real birther?

Here's more from WaPo. 

"Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Friday acknowledged for the first time that President Obama was born in the United States, ending his long history of stoking unfounded doubts about the nation’s first African American president but also seeking to falsely blame Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for starting the rumors."

"Thank you. The key error you normally see in MSM coverage is omission of the word falsely. If that were omitted here, it'd be the usual false equivalence. That's all liberal critics really mean by false equivalence as much as Liz Spayd and friends try to obscure it. "

See, so forget about the question of partisanship or taking sides. Just tell the truth. If either party or either candidate says something false, just don't be afraid to say so. 

Otherwise you deserve the scorn Scott Sumner has for Matt Lauer:

"And no, this is not “normal” in politics. Normal politicians lie and change their views on occasion. Hillary’s not much worse than average (although she is certainly worse.) But Trump’s just completely off the charts in terms of policy ignorance and personal dishonesty. I’ve never seen anything close to this in my life, and I’ve been following politics since the late 1960s. Nixon might have been closest on the honesty criterion, but of course was far more knowledgeable. And even Nixon tried to avoid statements that were obvious lies. He was a devious liar. Trump just doesn’t care. He’ll look you in the eye and tell you that he opposed the Iraq War. And the reporter who asked the question will be too cowardly to call him a liar to his face. I almost hope Trump wins. We deserve him."

Can the media redeem itself as Beutler rightly says it still can? WaPo gives us some reason to hope.

No comments:

Post a Comment