The corporate media and journalistic malpractice


mediaconglomeratesDonald Trump’s strategy is to win through sheer media dominance alone. Trump himself has repeatedly said that his strategy is premised on sucking up all the media oxygen.

Trump is not raising money nor spending it like any other presidential candidate. Donald Trump on Pace to Raise Less Money Than Almost Any Other Presidential Candidate in Modern Era. He needed a partner, and the media has been more than willing to oblige him in his campaign strategy.

By now, it’s clear that Hillary Clinton’s main opponent is not Donald Trump. It’s the news media following her campaign.

The Political Animal Blog has a series of posts that are enlightening on this topic, on what constitutes journalistic malpractice in my opinion.

John Stoehr writes, Is the Press So Privileged That They Don’t Care Who Wins the Presidency?

Under normal circumstances, a presidential candidate diagnosed with pneumonia would be commended for honoring the roughly three thousand victims and heroes of Sept. 11. She’d be seen as tough and admirable, as would anyone who put aside their health to commemorate America’s fallen.

Instead of covering her very public near collapse on Sunday with respect — or mere impartiality — the press reported that her poor health played into a “narrative.”

Why is this happening?

Why are the press, people who should know better, effectively undermining 2016’s lone viable candidate, given that Donald Trump, as a former deputy director of the CIA has attested, cannot credibly serve as president; given he has plagiarized nearly every policy speech he has delivered since July; given he appears to have used other people’s money (charitable donations to the Trump Foundation) to fund a smear campaign against a New York Attorney General, who is spearheading a lawsuit against Trump University?

No one knows. Perhaps no one can know.

Before I continue, I should say my argument is not about conspiracy or intent. A vast majority of media pros are going about their business in normal ways indifferent to ideology or partisanship. Journalists are self-interested, but otherwise my argument is not about bias or worldview. It’s about behaviors endemic to our media, and the reasons behind them.

Some say it’s ratings. Cable news is poised to profit from a close race; there is some social science to back that claim. Others say it’s laziness. Campaign journalists aren’t held to the same rigorous standards as other journalists.

* * *

[I] blame the norms of journalism.

The very concept of newsworthiness depends somewhat on what’s considered normal. What’s “normal” is often determined by social stigma. One such stigma is that women should not do a man’s job, like the presidency (As Trump said, Clinton doesn’t “look” the part). When she “confirms” that stigma — say, by getting sick — that’s newsworthy.

Others point to something else.

Nancy LeTourneau examines the “something else” in When Comedians Do What the Media Can’t (modified):

The New Republic‘s Brian Beutler writes that the “false balance” coverage of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is all about the press’s self-interest. Why the Media Is Botching the Election:

The press is not a pro-democracy trade, it is a pro-media trade. By and large, it doesn’t act as a guardian of civic norms and liberal institutions—except when press freedoms and access itself are at stake. Much like an advocacy group or lobbying firm will reserve value judgments for issues that directly touch upon the things they’re invested in, reporters and media organizations are far more concerned with things like transparency, the treatment of reporters, and first-in-line access to information of public interest, than they are with other forms of democratic accountability.

That’s not a value set that’s well calibrated to gauging Trump’s unmatched, omnidirectional assault on our civil life. Trump can do and say outrageous things all the time, and those things get covered in a familiar “did he really say that?” fashion, but his individual controversies don’t usually get sustained negative coverage unless he is specifically undermining press freedom in some clear and simple way.

Jonathan Chait writes at New York Magazine, New York Times Public Editor Liz Spayd Writes Disastrous Defense of False Equivalence:

The most important substantive problem facing political journalists of this era is asymmetrical polarization. Political journalism evolved during an era of loose parties, both of which hugged the center, and now faces an era in which one of those parties has veered sharply away from the center. Today’s Republican Party now resides within its own empirical alternative universe, almost entirely sealed off from any source of data, expertise, or information that might throw its ideological prior values into question. Donald Trump’s candidacy is the ne plus ultra of this trend, an outlier horrifying even to a great many conservatives who have been largely comfortable with their party’s direction until now. How can the news media appropriately cover Trump and his clearly flawed opponent without creating an indecipherable din of equivalent-sounding criticism, where one candidate’s evasive use of a private email server looms larger than the other’s promise to commit war crimes?

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo writes, The Crisis at The Times And That Public Editor Piece:

What this debate all comes down to is that the imperative for balance and the imperative for accuracy and completeness, clarifying and explaining what’s true and what’s not are inevitably in tension. Precisely how it’s solved or how that tension is dealt with is a very good debate to be having. (I would suggest the goal is not balance but fairness, fundamental honesty with readers and a constant effort to interrogate one’s own biases.) But not to recognize the tension and not to see how some candidates push that tension to the point of crisis simply shows you’re in denial or have a monumental lack of self-awareness about the journalistic craft.

If you are interested in understanding what is going on with the media in this election, all of those are worth a thorough reading.

Nancy LeTourneau again on a recent post by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Quick Takes: Ta-Nehisi Coates on “Contributing to An Opportunistic Ignorance” (modified):

Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic, How Breitbart Conquered the Media takes on the response of some in the media to Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables.”

. . . what they [journalists] have yet to come to grips with is that Donald Trump is a democratic phenomenon, and that there are actual people – not trolls under a bridge – whom he, and his prejudices against Latinos, Muslims, and blacks, represent.

I do not believe that journalists are so powerful as to disabuse this group of their beliefs. But there is something to be said for not contributing to an opportunistic ignorance. For much of this campaign journalists have attacked Hillary Clinton for being evasive and avoiding hard questioning from their ranks. And then the second Clinton is forthright and says something revealing, she is attacked – not for the substance of what she’s said – but simply for having said it. This hypocrisy carries a chilling implicit message: Lie to me. Lie to the country. Lie to everyone. This weekend was not just another misanalysis, it was a shocking betrayal of the journalistic mission which should urge the revelation of truth as opposed to the propagation of hot takes, Washington jargon, and politics-speak…

The safe space for the act of being white endures today. This weekend, the media, an ostensibly great American institution, saw it challenged and – not for the first time – organized to preserve it. For speaking a truth, backed up by data, Clinton was accused of promoting bigotry. No. The true crime was endangering white consciousness. So it was when the president asserted that it was stupid to arrest a man for breaking into his own home. So it was when the president said that if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin. And so it is when reformers suggest police not stop citizens on so flimsy a pretext as furtive movements. The need to be white is a sensitive matter – one which our institutions are inexorably and mindlessly bound to protect.

Finally, the Washington Post makes the point that Trump is still the least transparent U.S. presidential candidate in modern history:

Donald Trump made what his campaign billed as two major disclosures on Wednesday. First, an attorney provided a timeline of his Slovenia-born wife’s immigration status. Then, amid questions about his health during a television interview, Trump pulled some medical test results out of his blazer pocket.

Yet despite these high-profile gestures, Trump remains the least transparent major presidential nominee in modern history. He is the first since 1976 to refuse to release his tax returns. He has declined to provide documentation of the “tens of millions” of dollars he claims to have donated to charity. He has yet to release a comprehensive accounting of his health. And, while Wednesday’s letter about Melania Trump’s immigration from her home country offers a few new details, there is no documentation to back up the claims.

At the same time, Trump and his aides are criticizing rival Hillary Clinton as secretive and demanding more information from her about her emails and health …

… and his complicit media partners play along and do Trump’s bidding. There is something terribly corrupt in the modern corporate media.

In a fair fight, Clinton would defeat Trump. But she also must defeat a corrupt corporate media that is not on the ballot. And that is a much taller order.

And if Trump wins? The corporate media will not accept responsibility for its complicit aiding and abetting of Trump’s campaign. “Hey, don’t blame us. We just report the news.” What a load of crap.


  1. One of the biggest problems Hillary has is when something happens, the first instinct of the Clintons is to lie. And when more information is demanded, they lie some more. That has been the pattern throughout their time in the public spotlight. I think this may affect how the media deals with them. After a long while of not being able to believe what they say, the media starts doing it’s own jaundiced interpretation of the things the Clintons do. I believe it is a self inflicted wound for Hillary brought on by nearly two decades of deceit and chicanery.

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