Talk about bad timing. On the heels of two major failures by national media to properly research and fact-check narratives, HarperCollins announced it will publish a new book by CNN’s Jim Acosta on Donald Trump’s war on the media.
CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is authoring a book about the Trump administration and its battles with the news media.
The Harper imprint of HarperCollins Publishers announced the book on Thursday morning. Harper says Acosta will share “never-before-revealed stories of this White House’s rejection of truth, while laying out the stakes for how Trump’s hostility toward facts poses an unprecedented threat to our democracy.” …
“Simply put, I am writing this book to share what I’ve experienced covering President Trump during his first two years in office,” Acosta said in a statement on Thursday. “This sobering, bewildering, and sometimes frightening experience has made it absolutely clear that this is a dangerous time to tell the truth in America.”
Oh, goody! The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America will hit the bookstores on June 11th. Maybe by that time, the book-buying public will forget about all of the truth the media failed to report about the Buzzfeed “scoop” on Michael Cohen, and the industry-wide facepalm on the Covington Catholic high-school kids — a facepalm which continues to this moment.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a book to be written about the war between the media and Donald Trump. However, Acosta is hardly a credible narrator to tell the story. His self-promoting antics have drawn wide criticism, even from some of his fellow journalists. Acosta’s behavior has made it very clear that this war cuts in both directions. There are far more credible journalists who could address the issue without it looking like a personal vendetta, and without it having the aroma of self-justification for the “look at me” approach Acosta has taken as CNN’s main White House correspondent — an approach that the White House has inexplicably facilitated at times, too.
Nevertheless, the book will undoubtedly be a smash, especially since every news outlet will want to promote Acosta’s view of the Trump-media war. Even more so, it will allow them to keep promoting themselves as victims rather than acknowledge their own responsibility for this “war,” and how they are destroying their credibility while engaging in it.
Caitlin Flanagan put it well in her lengthy recap of the Covington mess, taking aim at the New York Times especially:
I would not be surprised if more videos of this kind turn up, or if more troubling information about the school emerges, but it will by then be irrelevant, as the elite media have botched the story so completely that they have lost the authority to report on it. By Tuesday, The New York Times was busy absorbing the fact that Phillips was not, apparently, a Vietnam veteran, as it had originally reported, and it issued a correction saying that it had contacted the Pentagon for his military record, suggesting that it no longer trusts him as a source of reliable information.
How could the elite media—The New York Times, let’s say—have protected themselves from this event, which has served to reinforce millions of Americans’ belief that traditional journalistic outlets are purveyors of “fake news”? They might have hewed to a concept that once went by the quaint term “journalistic ethics.” Among other things, journalistic ethics held that if you didn’t have the reporting to support a story, and if that story had the potential to hurt its subjects, and if those subjects were private citizens, and if they were moreover minors, you didn’t run the story. You kept reporting it; you let yourself get scooped; and you accepted that speed is not the highest value. Otherwise, you were the trash press.
At 8:30 yesterday morning, as I was typing this essay, The New York Timesemailed me. The subject line was “Ethics Reminders for Freelance Journalists.” (I have occasionally published essays and reviews in the Times). It informed me, inter alia, that the Times expected all of its journalists, both freelance and staff, “to protect the integrity and credibility of Timesjournalism.” This meant, in part, safeguarding the Times’ “reputation for fairness and impartiality.”
I am prompted to issue my own ethics reminders for The New York Times. Here they are: You were partly responsible for the election of Trump because you are the most influential newspaper in the country, and you are not fair or impartial. Millions of Americans believe you hate them and that you will causally harm them. Two years ago, they fought back against you, and they won. If Trump wins again, you will once again have played a small but important role in that victory.
Flanagan can include Acosta in that group as well. If this is a dangerous time to tell the truth in America, the media has at least as much responsibility for that as Trump does.