A coordinated campaign by more than 100 newspapers Thursday will see publication of a wide variety of editorials, all condemning President Trump for his attacks on the press and pretty much anything and everything. (Update: Reported number now over 300.)
This is what fellow recovering journalist Kerry Dougherty so astutely calls “briar-patch-level genius.”
Here we have a president attacking the mainstream media as lying “enemies of the people” and “fake news” trying to bring him down. And over there we have a significant chunk of the mainstream media publishing a nationwide coordinated campaign of collusion to bring him down.
Does this not play sweetly into the man’s manipulative hands? How does this help media in their ongoing death struggle for influence, relevance and financial stability in a turbulent era of change? Or the country, for that matter?
Let’s lay down some stipulations:
Trump was legitimately and eagerly elected by a plurality of voters and a substantial majority of the Electoral College in results that may have surprised even him because, like everyone, he knew of Hillary Clinton’s inevitable victory from the media whose attention he so desperately craves.
Trump was not elected despite his often outrageous behavior and statements. He was elected because of his outrageous behavior and statements.
They promised drastic change and profound offense to so many establishment types, especially in the East and the media, who in their self-satisfied position of power and comfort had for so long patronized and ignored the complaints and pleas of that plurality.
Had those elites of both parties paid genuine attention to flyover country’s concerns, frustrations and fears, as silly and stupid as they seem to disconnected Beltway know-it-all’s, they would not be in today’s baffling, powerless position. There would have been no need for a Trump. And by the way, isn’t it strange how a billionaire from a New York high-rise could detect the heartland’s hurt better than those elected from that region?
Trump did not invent many Americans’ visceral dislike of the media. He’s using it, exactly as these 100+ newspapers will use their readers’ visceral dislike of Trump to influence a large audience on this day. It’s all fair game in a free society, even one as bitterly splintered as ours these days.
Many silent Americans see a Washington paper, for example, chronicling in excess of 4,000 Trump exaggerations and lies. Fair enough.
Where was that passion for lie detection during Obama’s endless reign of error when he spewed serial untruths about, among others, Solyndra, Fast and Furious, the IRS scandal, Benghazi’s video roots and how Americans could keep their insurance, doctor and about $2,500 in savings under Obamacare?
Now, some realities: When’s the last time you read a newspaper editorial, online or in print, and thought, “You know, that anonymous writer is right and I’ve been wrong all these years!”
Or more accurately, when’s the last time you read a newspaper editorial period? I know. I don’t read them either. And I wrote them for several of my wonderfully rewarding 40+ years in newspaper journalism.
As part of their drift off into monopoly arrogance, newspapers in general and editorial pages in particular somehow came to think and lecture like they knew better than the readers who paid good money to read their words. They were pharmacists handing out a daily dose of the news they prescribed. Not a good attitude for any business to have toward customers, especially in an era of expanding free choices.
And now these same editors and publications will again lecture the country about the dangers and evils of the man they didn’t like 646 days ago, who punches back and got elected by millions who didn’t read those lectures then either. Other media, righteously nodding their heads, will cover it conscientiously and copiously as if it’s important medicine and of no self-interest.
By Friday, those pages will be in the bottom of recycle bins and bird cages. And in their cozy, mutual isolations, millions on both sides will feel sure once more that they’re in the right.