WashPost Scolds Cable for Overdoing Birther News…Then Does the Same
NewsBusters.org ^ | September 17, 2016 | Tim Graham
Posted on 9/17/2016, 6:51:58 PM by Kaslin
The self-loathing of the media came to a head after Donald Trump’s come-to-Barry admission that he was born in Hawaii after all. “Trump plays media for fools – again,” was the headline in The Washington Post. On the front page of Style, media columnist Margaret Sullivan lashed into the networks for treating this like a tremendously significant live event:
Donald Trump said “Jump,” and TV news said “How high?”
It happened again Friday morning when the Republican presidential candidate held the media hostage for nearly an hour after promising a major news announcement.
“Breaking News: Trump To Make ‘Big Announcement’ on Birther Issue,” said the banner on MSNBC.
“Soon: Trump To Address Birther Issue,” said CNN’s banner. Fox News was, of course, along for the ride.
Sullivan never acknowledged one obvious point about liberal bias: If Trump had announced he would be making a big announcement about trade deals, the ruckus wouldn’t have been nearly as great. It was about the “birther issue,” which the Obama-loving media never cease being outraged about.
For people who claim to care a lot about facts – and this fact of Obama’s birth is long established – they never seem to move on to Obama’s fact-mangling about his own life. Four years ago, David Maraniss – a pillar of the respectable establishment media at The Washington Post – wrote a book laying out multiple fictions in Obama’s memoir Dreams from My Father. Sullivan seems to have never read that, despite joining the Post. No, it was all about Trump’s “sewer,” and not Obama’s:
Dan Gillmor, a media scholar at Arizona State University, on Twitter called this episode “universal sewer dwelling” for cable news. By phone afterward, he said that “no journalist with a shred of integrity would have covered it.”
Saying the press got played, he said, is an understatement.
“This is a campaign and a candidate that completely understands how the press works — or doesn’t work — and exploits the blatant weaknesses of political journalism.”
Print journalists were in attendance, too, but it was live TV that played into Trump’s hands.
…“CNN and others were pulled into the whole three-ring circus — I’ve never seen anything as crass and disingenuous,” said Frank Sesno, a former CNN Washington bureau chief who is now the director of the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs.
Sesno called it “breathtaking” — and that was no compliment…“I’d like to think this could be a turning point,” Sesno said. “Of course, we’ve been here before, and that hasn’t happened.”
It’s definitely overwrought to wait for an hour for Trump to arrive, expecting the act of waiting is a great ratings booster, and treating a candidate’s pronouncements as greatly significant. (This is where the media liberals feel suckered, in adding any historical significance to Trump.) But covering presidential candidate speeches live in a general election should be seen as a routine courtesy.
It’s also getting routine to point out that the media are much more outraged about this because the primaries are over, and Hillary is struggling. Their own political favoritism is causing the outrage, coming and going. Here’s how Sullivan dragged out the poor-substantive-Hillary card:
Meanwhile, as if to illustrate in caricature the differences in the candidates’ styles — and relative success with the media — the Democratic nominee was doing something unexciting, substantial and workmanlike: addressing the Black Women’s Agenda Symposium, talking about the economic challenges faced by women of color.
It got, of course, only a fraction of the media’s attention.
Earth to Margaret: So where in Saturday’s Post is the story on Hillary and the Black Women’s Agenda Symposium? At left is the top of the Post website. Search for “black women’s agenda” on the website, and you get….articles on birtherism. The front page is all about birtherism; inside, the Hillary-centric article is on Michelle Obama on the stump for Hillary…denouncing Trump as unserious.
Sullivan concluded with the note that public trust in the media is cratering – as if that’s because they aren’t tough enough on Trump? – and now that the election is near, it’s time to stop “promoting” Trump:
With public trust in the media at an abysmal low, it’s time — long past time — for TV news outlets to stop playing the stooge for Trump. The paradox, of course, is that Trump expresses nothing but contempt for the very people in the media who have made his candidacy viable.
Even if the turning point comes far too late, when billions of dollars of free media have promoted a candidacy like never before, it must come now.