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Groupthink, bias, and paranoia lead to abysmal media coverage of Donald Trump

by | Nov 11, 2016

By Dave Andrusko

liberalmedia23reI wish by addressing the contrasting opinions of two journalists I could suggest that it represents a kind of 50-50 balance in my trade. Alas for every honest introspection by CBS News’s Will Rahn there are 50 jeremiahs by the likes of the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan, demanding even more vigilant (read hostile, unfair, unbalanced) coverage of pro-life President-elect Donald Trump.

Here’s Sullivan’s opening line in [where else?] the Post’s “Style” section.

One thing is certain in the presumptive era of President Trump. Journalists are going to have to be better — stronger, more courageous, stiffer-spined — than they’ve ever been.

What would that suggest to you—or to anyone? That journalists had been a craven, cowardly, cowering lot, afraid to criticize Trump over the last year.

Is there anything, on this planet or beyond, that is further from the truth?

They have been vicious beyond what even I expected. There’s been no slur unslung, no badge of dishonored they failed to place on Trump’s lapel, no comparison too outrageous for the scribbler set.

Since Tuesday—not three days—the headlines and the stories have been nothing short of apocalyptic. Why?

For starters, reporters in overwhelming numbers, self-identified both as liberal and pro-abortion. Moreover they have long since unloosened such old-fashioned constraints as confining themselves to reporting.

But with Trump they have gone several miles further. They saw it as their solemn duty to bring him down. (The Washington Post said it wouldn’t/couldn’t endorse Trump way back in July, more than three months before it customarily endorses a candidate.)

Now that he has won, it is the end of the world. Not just because their preferred candidate lost but because Trump called them out for their transparent bias.

Solution? More and more intemperate criticism, more and more paranoia.

An unhinged Post columnist suggested today that Trump “has spoken with admiration of Putin’s ‘strength’ … even of his penchant for murdering journalists.”

Contrast that exercise in self-induced hysteria with Will Rahn’s piece, headlined “The unbearable smugness of the press.” Here’s his lead:

The mood in the Washington press corps is bleak, and deservedly so.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that, with a few exceptions, we were all tacitly or explicitly #WithHer, which has led to a certain anguish in the face of Donald Trump’s victory. More than that and more importantly, we also missed the story, after having spent months mocking the people who had a better sense of what was going on.

This is all symptomatic of modern journalism’s great moral and intellectual failing: its unbearable smugness. Had Hillary Clinton won, there’s be a winking “we did it” feeling in the press, a sense that we were brave and called Trump a liar and saved the republic.

What Rahn does is place the responsibility where it belongs. If much of the coalition that carried Trump to victory loathes the press, is that on them or on journalists who “love mocking Trump supporters”?

Rahn goes on, “We insult their appearances. We dismiss them as racists and sexists. We emote on Twitter about how this or that comment or policy makes us feel one way or the other, and yet we reject their feelings as invalid.”

Talk about getting it backwards. The “mainstream” press can’t ridicule Trump’s supporters often enough or cruelly enough, but are furious at Trump for pointing this unassailable truth to his audiences. Somehow that is unfairly “exploiting” the press’s abominable behavior, its condescension to the 60 million Americans who voted for him.

Let me conclude with Rahn’s conclusion which is as calm and fair-minded as Sullivan’s is overwrought and one-sided:

There’s a place for opinionated journalism; in fact, it’s vital. But our causal, profession-wide smugness and protestations of superiority are making us unable to do it well.

Our theme now should be humility. We must become more impartial, not less so. We have to abandon our easy culture of tantrums and recrimination. We have to stop writing these know-it-all, 140-character sermons on social media and admit that, as a class, journalists have a shamefully limited understanding of the country we cover.

What’s worse, we don’t make much of an effort to really understand, and with too few exceptions, treat the economic grievances of Middle America like they’re some sort of punchline. …

We have to fix this, and the broken reasoning behind it. There’s a fleeting fun to gang-ups and groupthink. But it’s not worth what we are losing in the process.

Categories: Media Bias