Our media doesn't trust you to handle the truth

The legacy media are having their Dr. Zaius moment, paternalistically shielding their infantile audience (read: you and me) from ugly images and realities. This is not simply a revolting development but a deeply troubling one that will only accelerate the ongoing loss of confidence and trust the public has in media. According to polling done for the Columbia Journalism Review, fewer than 20 percent of us have a “great deal of confidence” in the press. The only institution held in lower esteem is Congress.

Yet the media seem happy to keep digging their own grave. Yesterday, for instance, The New York Times reported on what it called a “macabre video of [a] fake Trump shooting media and critics” that was shown at a conference held at one of the president’s own properties (Trump had nothing to do with the conference or the video, which the White House has condemned). You’d assume the paper would link to or embed the video in support of its characterization. But it refused to, even as it’s safe to say that it was the Times’ coverage that helped bring the video to a large viewing audience (that’s how I learned about it)…

The actions of the Times, Meet the Press, and the New Zealand media will not slow the loss of confidence and trust in the media. On the contrary, such behavior will accelerate it as readers continue to rebel against such paternalism by searching out alternative sources of information (including many shady, conspiracist sites). There’s already a widespread belief, some or much it justified, that powerful elites hold most Americans in various forms of contempt. Simultaneously telling those same readers, viewers, and listeners that big, important, scary things are happening and then withholding primary sources is a perfect recipe to increase cynicism and anger toward the media.