The sad de­cline of Amer­i­can jour­nal­ism

The Community Connection - - OPINION - Jerry Shenk Email colum­nist Jerry Shenk at

I miss jour­nal­ism. Decades ago, na­tional po­lit­i­cal re­port­ing seemed at least fairly ob­jec­tive. Not any­more.

Un­der­stand­ably, Amer­i­cans’ trust in me­dia has reached an all­time low. Pub­lic dis­trust isn’t lim­ited to the pres­i­dent and his sup­port­ers, ei­ther. Fully two-thirds of Amer­i­cans be­lieve the main­stream me­dia pub­lishes and broad­casts fake news.

Good jour­nal­ism may still be around, but it’s sel­dom found on the na­tional “news” pages and broad­casts where left-wing opin­ions, ad­vo­cacy, un­founded ac­cu­sa­tions, spec­u­la­tions and out­right pro­pa­ganda aren’t only ex­cused, they’re en­cour­aged.

Most Amer­i­cans, es­pe­cially those liv­ing out­side the heav­ily lib­eral coastal strips, large cities and col­lege towns would pre­fer straight­for­ward re­port­ing. But, na­tional me­dia typ­i­cally presents and/or mis­rep­re­sents the ad­min­is­tra­tion and any­thing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump says or does in the worst pos­si­ble light.

Me­dia’s re­lent­less, hys­ter­i­cally bi­ased coverage tends to over­shadow, even crowd out gen­uine news. Left-wing con­sumers who ac­cept any­thing neg­a­tive, real or imag­ined, and agree with bi­ased main­stream me­dia pre­sen­ta­tions ap­pear to wel­come the de­cline of more tra­di­tional, ob­jec­tive news. But a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­can con­sumers have be­come skep­ti­cal of al­most ev­ery­thing they see or read, and many have tuned out po­lit­i­cal me­dia en­tirely.

Once-re­spected me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions and na­tional jour­nal­ists are mak­ing mis­takes that wouldn’t have been tol­er­ated six or even two decades ago. And cor­rec­tions are made grudg­ingly, if at all, al­most al­ways with­out con­se­quences for the of­fend­ers.

Iron­i­cally, not only does wide­spread, un­am­bigu­ous me­dia bias dam­age their brands, di­min­ish their markets and rev­enues, but me­dia dis­plays of me­di­ocrity and ar­ro­gance ac­tu­ally ben­e­fit the pri­mary target of their vit­riol, Pres­i­dent Trump. A few are catch­ing on. In a Na­tional Jour­nal col­umn en­ti­tled “Trump Ex­ploits Gap Between Elite and Pub­lic Opin­ion,” Josh Kraushaar no­ticed, “The pres­i­dent’s job ap­proval has inched up­wards since Char­lottesville, and a sur­pris­ingly high num­ber of vot­ers agree with his provoca­tive rhetoric.”

Kraushaar: “The re­ac­tion af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump’s tepid re­sponse to the neo-Nazi march in Char­lottesville was swift and se­vere. One broad­cast net­work de­voted its en­tire nightly news­cast to Trump’s chaotic press con­fer­ence on Tuesday. The next day, The Economist por­trayed the pres­i­dent scream­ing into a bull­horn shaped as a Ku Klux Klan hood on its cover — with other news mag­a­zines fol­low­ing suit.”

Amus­ingly, Kraushaar’s bias re­mains ev­i­dent in his use of the pe­jo­ra­tives “provoca­tive,” “tepid” and “chaotic.”

But the polling to which Kraushaar re­ferred sug­gests that Amer­i­cans, gen­er­ally, don’t share the same level of outrage as the peo­ple whose opin­ions are formed by “elite” me­dia. The larger pub­lic views pro­gres­sive at­tempts to re­move stat­ues by mob vi­o­lence and in­tim­i­da­tion as anti-demo­cratic and un­usu­ally dumb, even for mil­i­tant lib­er­als. Nonethe­less, their shrill, me­dia en­cour­aged de­ter­mi­na­tion to re­write Amer­i­can his­tory per­sists.

Amer­ica will be af­fected far more by what Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­tu­ally does, but most po­lit­i­cal me­dia have a con­textfree fix­a­tion on pars­ing, falsely in­ter­pret­ing and slam­ming Trump’s words rather than on the more im­por­tant work of ob­jec­tively re­port­ing his poli­cies and progress.

An In­stapun­dit blogsite poster ob­served: “Trump ben­e­fits from the elite Mass Hys­te­ria Bub­ble. That’s why he keeps pump­ing air into it.” Over-in­flated, all bub­bles even­tu­ally burst.

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