The powers and perils of the press

Having an adversarial relationship with the Commander in Chief is nothing new for members of the press corps. Their obligation is to uncover the truth, no matter who it offends. Oftentimes their jobs put them in direct conflict with the top levels of government because let’s face it, power needs to be filtered for impurities. Constantly. The seats of power in this country may be democratic in name, but their desire to rule can blur the lines, which is where the power of the press comes in.

The press is a middleman to the masses, an arbiter of the documented evidence, their presentation is subjected to incredible scrutiny by all corners simply because it’s that important. It used to be that getting it right was the priority in the news business, and then came the big moneyed buy-in of news agencies and this was followed by the explosion of social media; where anyone with a laptop, or even a phone, could make the news. Before long, ratings dollars and breaking the news supplanted all other concerns.

This isn’t to say that the journalism business has effectively sold out. Quite simply, it’s important to remember that journalism has become a business, and as such the readers bear a responsibility to filter out the what’s what to a story. As end users, they must differentiate between the talking head news personalities that dominate the news and legit journalists who actually, yanno, cover it.

There is a vilification of the press going on these days, led by an administration that was built on the free press it received over the last sixteen months. Trump has long shown an allergic reaction to transparency, which is why he trashes all inquiries that don’t jibe with his master plan. This isn’t a liberal point of view, I’m just someone who respects the power of the press and understand the perils they assume each and every day.

Maybe it’s just coincidence that Election Day happened to fall on the 51st anniversary of the death of Dorothy Kilgallen. The renowned journalist for the New York Journal-American was one of the few voices to publicly challenge the Warren Commission findings in the Kennedy assassination. She was the only reporter to interview Jack Ruby. She chased, she sourced and she reported her findings; and in so doing she made enemies at the highest levels. Her life, and the mysterious circumstances surrounding her untimely death are covered in the new book by Mark Shaw The Reporter Who Knew Too Much. 

It’s a sad title, and an ominous reminder.





23 thoughts on “The powers and perils of the press

  1. Thank you, Pilgrim. I happen to be among the few who have little faith in the media. The truth is a very flexible and is jaded or tainted with the political beliefs of the reporter, editor, or publisher. Having said that I think you are so right about this President. this is going to be an interesting time and I hope the press rises above its own prejudice and reports unvarnished facts It has been a long time (maybe 51 Years) since they have done so. Good post my man.

    • John,

      I can’t tell you how many people take a news outlet’s reporting as the last word on a story, rather than reading or watching the report and then doing a little homework on their own. I hear you, as per the media in this day and age, but I don’t know, I think you’ve always had journalists who reported in their own opinion and journalists who who didn’t let their opinion get in the way of a story. And you still have the latter, they’re out there, but it’s harder to find them with the explosion of social media.

      There are so many more ways to get your news than ever, and the vast majority come with great risk as far as validity is concerned. But that’s on the reader, I think. As consumers, people will chase a dollar savings by shopping another store. Why wouldn’t they be as determined when it comes to their news?

      Great comment, Sheriff, and thank you.

  2. Thank you for mentioning the book; I bet it’s enlightening. Something that comes to mind with the current state of affairs between media and President is simply that Trump LOVES attention, positive or negative, he doesn’t give a damn, so long as people are talking about HIM. I also think, in some cases, that he says things and does things to get a reaction, without a serious strategy to follow through.

    My opinion is that the media needs to pull back somewhat rather than harp on every single thing he does–no matter how outrageous he is. Watch him flounder without the support of the limelight. See how cocky he remains when he realizes he isn’t the talk of the town. He’s gonna do what he wants, no matter the fight we give him, but he might pick fewer fights if he thinks we’re more interested in other things.

    This isn’t to say we should ignore him entirely, because he has dangerous ideas. But I think he truly gets off on power and making people squirm. Dunno. That’s just the way I learned how to handle bullies in my childhood, and I think such lessons could still pertain here, to some degree.

    Great post, Cayman!

    • Kate,

      You’re spot on in your assessment of this Trump situation. I guess it was probably a little more than a year ago, I was having a conversation with a fellow who used to work in Senator Brubaker’s office. We were talking about Trump and I was being totally dismissive of his chances in the primaries. This dude set me straight. He actually predicted that Trump had a great chance of winning the nomination, which I found absurd at the time. His thing was, how many political candidates can score free ad time? And do so on every major news outlet whenever they damn well please?

      Trump capitalized on a lot of angst with a message that runs counter to a democracy’s mission statement, which is to always be looking forward to the next great moment. A catchphrase such as “Making America Great Again” doesn’t feel like the kind of slogan a free country might use. It comes off as dismissive and disrespectful of all the progress we have made. But that’s just me.

      I agree with you that the media must practice some restraint as per Trump, but I’m dubious. Cable news is a bottom line business, and Trump moves the needle. Sad to say, it comes down to dollars. And those financial obligations to report anything and everything that comes out of Trump’s mouth seem to trickle down into all the other places where people get their news.

      Stay diligent Boston. And keep up your great work!

  3. There are some sights out there that have given the press a bad name, you’re right. Gossip columns and people posting things on the web calling themselves journalists who might not even know who Walter Cronkite was, sadly. But I grew up catching part of the Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, and Dan Rather news cycle. Integrity comes to mind when I think of journalism and it’s beyond belief that people in office feel the need to call reporters who live up to the highest journalistic standards “fake news,” just because they’re being called out on their crap. Trying to silence the press with threats and insults is such a weak man’s position and unfortunately a constant one in the White House with their “alternative facts” belief system. I do, however, agree that there are many new outlets that publish stories, but just because they publish stories doesn’t mean they’re journalists. I agree with you … People actually have to read and decipher what is true now, even when what is true in the White House seems ridiculously unbelievable and resembling a Twilight Zone episode. All of this media scrutiny, which stems from side effects of technology and social media and people spewing off opinions instead of news, will hopefully engage people into reading, and reading and reading (perhaps The NY Times, Washington Post, etc.) in order to educate them on the issues so they can make a better choice next time and doom our country. Nice post buddy. I’m gonna have to check out Mark Shaw.

    • Cali,

      As I said before, I have zero problem with the crush of news thanks to the tentacles of an ever expanding social media. It’s great, to have so many choices. But it’s up to us to figure the shit out for ourselves. Listen, it’s easy to dismiss even the New York Times and Washington Post as liberal elites who simply eschew the party line, but it’s also wrong. There is great stuff going on in these places, and for all the hate Donald Trump throws in the direction of the New York Times, calling it “fake news” among other things, I challenge anyone to show me where this exists over the last sixteen months. The NYT has been on point in their reporting of the man, and maybe . . . just maybe, that’s the problem he has with them.

      I never understood people who couldn’t take criticism. I guess I grew up in a different time, because I remember criticism being a huge part of my life growing up. I came to understand that if I took every criticism leveled at me, I would be better off running away from home and joining a circus. Thing is, I had no doubt that the guy running the circus was probably a critic as well. Point is, grow up, adapt, listen and learn from the criticism. Know what part of that criticism you own, and don’t let the rest of it bother you. Trump never got that memo because he’s been an executive surrounded by yes people for a very long time.

      Thank you for the thoughtful words, Cali. Have a great week hermana!

  4. I think that’s exactly the problem. He’s a vindictive child. Organizations like NY Times and Post report news and are on point when it comes to reporting what the administration says and does and if it looks bad and feels like criticism it’s probably because these journalists are holding up a mirror and he doesn’t like what he sees. But he’s the one that put it out there in the first place … Soooooo you know. It’s going to be an interesting news cycle and I’m always a Freedom of the Press advocate and hoping they continue to do their job despite the future obstacles.

  5. Media bias is nothing new because they’ve always had a slant. Then again, every decision as to the words the write, the questions they ask, and the clips they decide to show how a slant … it always has and always will. …. THEREFORE, the importance of digging … the digging that the media does … the digging that we are required to do to be informed … Unfortunately, too many people have decided to determine their own news source so they can hear the message they prefer. … THEREFORE, the people are more biased than ever … probably more biased than the media.

    Great post!

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