The me­dia broke the elec­tion

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Ruben Navarette Jr.

— The me­dia need to of­fer a mea culpa. On be­half of my col­leagues, I’d like to apol­o­gize for break­ing this elec­tion. Here’s how we did it:

— We be­came ob­sessed with Don­ald Trump. That was on dis­play most re­cently in last week’s vice-pres­i­den­tial de­bate, in which mod­er­a­tor Elaine Qui­jano of CBS News fired off many more tough ques­tions at Repub­li­can Mike Pence than she did at Demo­crat Tim Kaine. Qui­jano ze­roed in on Trump’s past state­ments and — like Kaine — de­manded to know whether Pence would de­fend them. The New York Times noted: “Elaine Qui­jano, the mod­er­a­tor, helped Mr. Kaine along, open­ing one ques­tion with a recita­tion of Mr. Trump’s state­ments.” Qui­jano also steered the con­ver­sa­tion away from Hil­lary Clin­ton’s email scan­dal and missed at least a half-dozen chances to grill Kaine — for in­stance, on which of Clin­ton’s con­flict­ing po­si­tions on trade he was most com­fort­able with.

— We ma­nip­u­lated quotes. On Sun­day, ABC News tweeted that for­mer New York City Mayor Rudy Gi­u­liani said this about Trump on “This Week with Ge­orge Stephanopou­los”: “Don’t you think a man who has this kind of eco­nomic ge­nius is a lot bet­ter for the United States than a woman?” The tweet left out the rest: “... and the only thing that she ever pro­duced is a lot of work for the FBI check­ing out her email.” Gi­u­liani was em­pha­siz­ing Clin­ton’s email scan­dal, not the fact that she’s a woman. Last month, CBS News did Bill Clin­ton a fa­vor by re­mov­ing the word “fre­quently” from the re­broad­cast of an in­ter­view in which the for­mer pres­i­dent ad­mit­ted that Hil­lary Clin­ton “fre­quently” fainted due to de­hy­dra­tion be­fore catch­ing him­self and say­ing she “rarely” lost con­scious­ness.

— We set the stage for this matchup. Trump vs. Clin­ton has been a money-maker. Eighty-four mil­lion Amer­i­cans tuned into the first de­bate, gen­er­at­ing tons of rev­enue for broad­cast me­dia com­pa­nies. Trump is get­ting rough treat­ment from the me­dia now, but he de­feated 16 other Repub­li­can con­tenders thanks to kid-glove treat­ment dur­ing the pri­maries. As for Clin­ton, even though she was the odds-on fa­vorite to be the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee, it didn’t hurt her chances that the me­dia largely dis­missed Bernie San­ders — and thereby missed the rev­o­lu­tion he sparked. At one point, San­ders’ wife, Jane, even com­plained that the me­dia were un­fairly play­ing up her hus­band’s at­tacks on Clin­ton but down­play­ing Clin­ton’s at­tacks on San­ders.

— We tried to ac­com­plish con­flict­ing goals. We wanted to gen­er­ate huge rat­ings and earn big prof­its by putting Trump front and cen­ter, while still con­tin­u­ing our saintly work of mak­ing Amer­i­cans into good peo­ple. But now we’re shocked that sup­port for Trump is ac­tu­ally mak­ing Amer­i­cans into bad peo­ple. Sud­denly, there are white high school stu­dents us­ing the word “Trump” and chants such as “build the wall” to taunt, bully and in­tim­i­date Latino class­mates. Such are the dan­gers when jour­nal­ists aim to be so­cial en­gi­neers. Mean­while, Clin­ton — who is al­ready viewed as dis­hon­est by a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans — treats ly­ing as an art form and forces her de­fend­ers to spin one yarn af­ter an­other to carry on the nar­ra­tives.

— Fi­nally, we flip-flopped just like politi­cians do. Take the re­cent about-face by The New York Times con­cern­ing Ohio. Now that Trump ap­pears to have jumped ahead in the Buck­eye State by rack­ing up defections by white work­ing-class Democrats who like his tough talk on im­mi­gra­tion and trade, a re­cent ar­ti­cle in the Times in­sisted that Ohio is “sud­denly fad­ing in im­por­tance” be­cause the elec­torate is too old, too white and too poorly ed­u­cated. But just a few weeks be­fore, the paper was singing a dif­fer­ent tune about Ohio, por­tray­ing it as “an es­sen­tial swing state.” The re­porters and ed­i­tors at the Times ob­vi­ously didn’t think their read­ers were smart enough to no­tice the shift.

It’s no won­der that a re­cent Gallup poll found that only 27 per­cent of Amer­i­cans think the hon­esty and eth­i­cal stan­dards of jour­nal­ists are “high” or “very high.” That’s not much bet­ter than lawyers, who clocked in at a pal­try 21 per­cent. Mem­bers of Congress were at 8 per­cent.

The me­dia have lost the pub­lic’s trust. That’s what hap­pens when folks fig­ure out that the in­sti­tu­tions they turn to for truth are not above shad­ing it.

Ruben Navarette Jr. is a syn­di­cated colum­nist from the Wash­ing­ton Post. His email is reuben@ ruben­navarette.com.

SAN DIEGO

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