Words to the wise

Here comes the first legacy of the Trump pres­i­dency

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

Among the main­stream me­dia’s man­i­fest faults is the high re­gard in which it holds it­self. The av­er­age “jour­nal­ist,” as up­town news­pa­per­men want to be called in a cul­ture where ti­tles get ever more ex­trav­a­gant, is a for­giv­ing fel­low, and never more for­giv­ing than when he con­fronts his own er­rors (if any). Be­ing a jour­nal­ist in Wash­ing­ton means never hav­ing to say you’re sorry.

But among the lega­cies of Don­ald Trump that we can al­ready see are the wounds — and may they be mor­tal — on po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and its par­ent, high-sound­ing hypocrisy. Since the Wash­ing­ton jour­nal­ist doesn’t want to say he’s sorry, oth­ers are com­ing for­ward to say how re­ally, re­ally sorry some of Wash­ing­ton jour­nal­ists are.

Call­ing out “fake news” is cur­rently all the rage, and most of the peo­ple who de­nounce it aren’t talk­ing about the fake news re­ported daily — even hourly — by the big news­pa­pers and the talk­ing heads of tele­vi­sion. Since there is no con­sumer pro­tec­tion agency to pro­tect con­sumers from the me­dia, a reader and viewer has to do it.

“If you don’t read the news­pa­per,” Den­zel Wash­ing­ton, the Hol­ly­wood ac­tor and di­rec­tor, told re­porters Tues­day in Wash­ing­ton, “you’re un­in­formed. If you do read it, you’re mis­in­formed.” A harsh in­dict­ment, but Mr. Wash­ing­ton knows whereof he speaks. He was the sub­ject of a fake news dis­patch dur­ing the cam­paign, when it was breath­lessly re­ported that he was switch­ing his al­le­giance from Hil­lary Clin­ton to Don­ald Trump.

Mr. Wash­ing­ton, who was in town to pro­mote his new movie, “Fences,” about a black fam­ily grow­ing up in Pitts­burgh in the 1950s, di­ag­nosed what’s wrong with the me­dia (which used to be called “the press”) at a press con­fer­ence at the Na­tional Mu­seum of African-Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture.

“It’s the ef­fect of too much in­for­ma­tion,” he says, “the need to be first, not even to be true any­more. So what a re­spon­si­bil­ity you all have — to tell the truth. In our so­ci­ety, it’s just [to be] first, who cares? Get it out there. We don’t care who it hurts. We don’t care who we de­stroy. We don’t care if it’s true. Just say it, sell it. Any­thing you prac­tice you’ll get good at, in­clud­ing [spread­ing BS].”

Most re­porters work hard at their craft, and try to sep­a­rate the wheat from the chaff, but the jour­nal­ists who keep the wheat and spread the chaff dam­age the rep­u­ta­tions of ev­ery­one else.

The absence of com­pe­tent edi­tors, charged with hold­ing re­porters to the line of ac­cu­racy and de­cency, is the source of the angst. It’s a pity Den­zel Wash­ing­ton’s stern lecture came from Hol­ly­wood, not from a tough old bird in a news­room, but the species is al­most ex­tinct.

Once upon a time in Chicago, where the prac­tice of jour­nal­ism has al­ways been loud, rowdy and not for the faint of heart, a fa­mous ed­i­tor re­duced his warn­ing to get the facts straight to 11 well-cho­sen words of news­room gospel: “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.” And then, and only then, shout it loud and clear, and in ink.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.