Real Talk About The Media, Fake News
I’ve never been much of a fan of Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists. Too much about details of performing t he craft and not enough about public perception of t he current young, on-the-cheap reporters doing the heavy lifting on newspapers and TV.
But SPJ president Lynn Walsh nailed it this month. “The reality is some of us are out of touch. Not only are we out of touch, but we don’t even recognize we’re out of touch.”
Back when j ournalists b r o u g h t d o wn Ri c h a r d Nixon with the Watergate scandal, nobody claimed we were part of the Deep State and elites t rying t o besmirch t he hero of t he little people.
When Richard Dudman of the St. Louis Post- Dispatch made his f i r s t r eporting trip to Vietnam in 1962 and concluded before anyone that the war was a doomed enterprise, nobody yelled “media doomsayer.”
Locally, we were heroes at KGMB-TV when reporter Bambi Weil uncovered politician Randolph Crossl ey’s crooked dealings at his Pacific Savings & Loan right after he lost the governorship to George Ariyoshi by about 5,000 votes. Nobody claimed we were in the pockets of Democrats.
I got Maj. Gen. Edwin Walker fired in Germany in 1961 when I uncovered his illegal promotion of GOP Congress candidates to his 15,000 soldiers and only the ultra-right John Birch Society thought I was a bad guy.
What’s happened since, and why are we Fake News to many Americans?
Mostly, it’s the internet. As soon as a mainstream reporter files his print or TV story, blog sites are up saying, “That’s not true,” or worse, relating untrue material to make the reporter seem mistaken or biased.
But there are other things. Surveys i ndicate t hat a majority of mainstream journalists are Democrat. I don’t dispute that. Most I’ve known are politically progressive by nature as the voice of the powerless against the powerful. Not all, by any means, but most.
We’ve al s o l ost t ouch with our communities. We don’t go out and tell groups what we do, why and how. Citizens don’t personally know us. My communications are by email. My readers may be scared to death to personally disagree with me. They f i gure I ’ m Mr. Big.
At KGMB, the late Bob Sevey and I used to go out and t alk t o groups about how news is gathered, and we handled some very tough questions with very straight answers. We acknowledged our shortcomings.
My book Reporter acknowledges t he f ailures. The Honolulu Advertiser editor killed my story crit- i cal of t he state attorney general when that official was r e v i e wing the anti-competitive elements of a merger with the Star-Bulletin. Sevey used to wince at stories nailing businessmen he drank with at the country club and the Press Club.
Mainly, we’ve failed to explain why even a sometimes flawed but free press is critical to a democracy.
We’re not trying to “bring down” government. We’re trying to bring it up to your expectations.
This year, local journalists’ “Gridiron Show” rapidly sold out with the theme Real Fake News.
President Trump has tapped into the media falling out of touch with their audience.