by Michael Goodwin (see bio below)
Mr. Goodwin puts feet to my thoughts and I didn’t have the words. I respect him and his background. I am trying to be a good independent. Journalism and writers are making it harder and harder.
I’ve been a journalist for a long time. Long enough to know that it wasn’t always like this. There was a time not so long ago when journalists were trusted and admired. We were generally seen as trying to report the news in a fair and straightforward manner.
I often found myself telling my students that the job of the reporter was “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I’m not even sure where I first heard that line, but it still captures the way most journalists think about what they do.
I want to emphasize that 2016 had those predictable elements plus a whole new dimension. This time, the papers dropped the pretense of fairness and jumped headlong into the tank for one candidate over the other. The Times media reporter began a story this way:
If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalist tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?
I read that paragraph and I thought to myself, well, that’s actually an easy question. If you feel that way about Trump, normal journalistic ethics would dictate that you shouldn’t cover him. You cannot be fair. And you shouldn’t be covering Hillary Clinton either, because you’ve already decided who should be president. Go cover sports or entertainment. Yet the Times media reporter rationalized the obvious bias he had just acknowledged, citing the view that Clinton was “normal” and Trump was not.
I found the whole concept appalling. What happened to fairness? What happened to standards? I’ll tell you what happened to them. The Times top editor, Dean Baquet, eliminated them. In an interview last October with the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, Baquet admitted that the piece by his media reporter had nailed his own thinking. Trump “challenged our language,” he said, and Trump “will have changed journalism.” Of the daily struggle for fairness, Baquet had this to say: “I think that Trump has ended that struggle. . . . We now say stuff. We fact check him. We write it more powerfully that [what he says is] false.”
Baquet was being too modest. Trump was challenging, sure, but it was Baquet who changed journalism. He’s the one who decided that the standards of fairness and nonpartisanship could be abandoned without consequence.
With that decision, Baquet also changed the basic news story formula. To the age-old elements of who, what, when, where, and why, he added the reporter’s opinion. Now the floodgates were open, and virtually every so-called news article reflected a clear bias against Trump. Stories, photos, headlines, placement in the paper—all the tools that writers and editors have—were summoned to the battle. The goal was to pick the next president.
Thus began the spate of stories… …
The Times never called Barack Obama a liar, despite such obvious opportunities as “you can keep your doctor” and “the Benghazi attack was caused by an internet video.” Indeed, the Times and The Washington Post, along with most of the White House press corps, spent eight years cheerleading the Obama administration, seeing not a smidgen of corruption or dishonesty. They have been tougher on Hillary Clinton during her long career. But they still never called her a liar, despite such doozies as “I set up my own computer server so I would only need one device,” “I turned over all the government emails,” and “I never sent or received classified emails.” All those were lies, but not to the national media.
Goodwin explains journalism standards through a true story about how Abe Rosenthal resolved conflict of interests.
The mismatch between the mainstream media and the public’s sensibilities means there is a vast untapped market for news and views that are not now represented.
… by the major news outlets. There are good internet sources of news. I use google news where I customize the topics I desire to follow. See below for a list of news sources that will provoke and stimulate you to think.
Goodwin sums up by bidding us all to stand up, speak and support the news sources and journalists we are inclined to believe speaks truth.
Complete Goodwin article here. See personalized List of Sources below.
Michael Goodwin is the chief political columnist for The New York Post. He has a B.A. in English literature from Columbia College and has taught at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Before joining the Post in 2009, he was the political columnist for The New York Daily News, where he served as executive editor and editorial page editor and led its editorial board to a Pulitzer Prize. Prior to that, he worked for 16 years at The New York Times, beginning as a clerk and rising to City Hall Bureau Chief. He is the co-author of I, Koch and editor of New York Comes Back.
List of news sources: