Departing NBC analyst bemoans network being "hostage" to Trump

If you watch NBC News with any regularity, you’ve probably seen William Arkin from time to time, usually commenting on war news and other military matters. The Army veteran has been a regular feature for more than a quarter of a century, but that’s now coming to an end. Arkin is leaving his position at the network, but before he finished cleaning out his desk he penned a note to his colleagues bemoaning the sad state of political coverage in the current era. His chief complaint is how news coverage has devolved into non-stop flurries of stories about the “Trump circus” and how it’s overshadowing other, more important breaking news. (Washington Times)

NBC News veteran William Arkin penned a memo to colleagues Wednesday announcing his resignation over what he described as the “Trump circus” that is increasingly favored over real journalism.

Mr. Arkin, an Army veteran who has worked for NBC on and off for more than 30 years as a reporter and military analyst, announced in his memo, obtained by CNN, that Friday would be his last day at the network and that he was taking the time off to work on multiple books and other projects.

Mr. Arkin, who is staunchly anti-war and far from being a supporter of Mr. Trump, said part of his reason for leaving NBC was the network’s obsession with opposing the president at every turn.

Before you get the impression that Arkin is somehow arguing in favor of having the network “cut Trump a break,” that’s hardly the case. He went on to remark that Trump is “an ignorant and incompetent impostor.” But that only gives Arkin more standing to make the argument that NBC News is steeped in hypocrisy at this point. In their efforts to undermine Trump, Arkin notes that the network is suddenly opposed to getting out of Syria or achieving denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, for no reason other than it’s what Donald Trump wants.

But it’s more than that, really, and it applies to all of the major news outlets, not just NBC. It’s true that anything a sitting United States president does or says (or tweets, these days) qualifies as “news.” But the nation’s news organizations have really gone whole hog in latching onto each and every tweet the President puts out there. And the truly sad part of this is that so many of those tweets are obviously designed to get the cable news talking heads up in arms and set their hair on fire.

Yes, let’s just admit it. Trump has been trolling the news networks on Twitter from the moment he announced his candidacy and he hasn’t slowed down a bit since taking office. That doesn’t mean they have to take the bait, but they can’t seem to help themselves. Trump knows this and he plays them like a fiddle.

In some cases, this means that important stories receive far less attention than they might otherwise. Granted, there are some stories – particularly if they might spell good news for Trump – that the networks would rather not cover and the President’s endless tweet-storms give them a perfect excuse to ignore them. But others, such as the ongoing situations with Venezuela, Turkey and Taiwan, also get little more than a passing mention, and these are important stories with serious potential implications for the United States.

When the President implements an actual policy change, signs a new law or has a meeting with foreign leaders, that’s definitely news and is worthy of coverage. But every random thought he tweets out doesn’t necessarily merit stopping the presses and flashing the “Breaking News” chyron. If network news producers are of a mind to have some New Years resolutions, perhaps one of them could involve being a bit more discerning in picking their battles.