Unbelievable. If 2016 taught me one thing, it's never trust the mainstream media. They lie, lie, lie—and they do so with a straight face while exuding a hypocritical fetor of self-righteousness rising like a column of greasy smoke toward a cohort of dark gods.
The latest salvo from the morally twisted MSM is this "open letter to Trump" by the hilariously misnamed Kyle Pope of the Columbia Journalism Review. Note first Glenn Reynolds's brief comment on this letter: "Can you imagine them sending this to Barack Obama, who needed to hear it just as much? No, no you can’t. And that’s because they rolled over for Obama."
In brief, the open letter levels several accusations against Trump (a tactic that isn't likely to make Trump any more receptive to the press, but I don't think Kyle Pope was in a negotiating or conciliatory mood when he wrote this amazingly sanctimonious piece), then proceeds to list the many ways in which the press, now having awoken to Trump's nefarious agenda, will hold the president-elect's feet to the fire. Here's a quick list of those ways:
1. Access is preferable, but not critical. (We have other ways to gather info.)
2. Off the record and other ground rules are ours—not yours—to set.
3. We decide how much airtime to give your spokespeople and surrogates.
4. We believe there is an objective truth, and we will hold you to that.
5. We’ll obsess over the details of government.
6. We will set higher standards for ourselves than ever before.
7. We’re going to work together (i.e., together as a corps of reporters).
8. We’re playing the long game.
While there's far, far too much material to spend all day debunking here, I'll concentrate on two items: (4) and (8).
Let's start with (8): it is my fervent hope that the MSM are dying a slow and painful death. There will be no long game (Pope speaks in terms of centuries, not single presidential terms) as long as the MSM refuse to learn any lessons from 2016 and before. The democratization of video production has made it possible for news and commentary to bypass the traditional media gatekeepers completely in order to report directly to the masses, and much of that "citizen journalism" is better than the swill oozing from the legacy-news outlets. Again: at this rate, there will be no long game.
As for (4)... where do I even begin? The most comical line in the entire piece is this:
Facts are what we do, and we have no obligation to repeat false assertions...
The MSM are currently trying to push yet another narrative on the people: that there is a thing called "fake news," and that it originates from the right or the alt-right or from some dark corner far removed from the shining bastions of unimpeachable journalism. Ironically, the MSM are themselves the primary generators of fake news: see ZeroHedge for a damning laundry list of the MSM's recent sins—and there's so much more to find if you're willing to dig further back into history.
"Facts are what we do" is the funniest lie I've heard in a while, and in this article, it's said with such seriousness that I suspect the influence of something pharmacological.
Pope's open letter is only the most recent article of several that have caused me to question journalistic integrity ever more deeply. On January 14, Instapundit blockquoted a chunk of an article titled "'Fake News?' Media, Heal Thyself." Here's that blockquote:
In December, PolitiFact awarded its “2016 Lie of the Year” award to “Fake news.” But mainstream press deserves plenty of blame. We can’t all be gullible rubes, after all. Why are American news consumers turning away from mainstream media? The answer is simple: contemporary reporting is awful.
According to George Mason University economist and political scientist Tim Groseclose, whose work has focused on measuring partisan bias in the press, news editors and reporters overwhelmingly skew left on the American political spectrum. To wit, the Center for Public Integrity found that, of the over $396,000 that members of the press gave in 2016 to the two major presidential campaigns, 96 percent of the funds went to Clinton.
Recent headlines claiming that malicious foreign actors “hacked” the 2016 election suggest that editors make deliberate choices to try to shape how we think about current events. Although federal officials have found no evidence of vote-tampering, the damage is already done: over 50 percent of Democrats in a recent YouGov poll think Russians hacked actual vote tallies to help Trump. This conspiracy theory rivals the belief that President Obama is a Kenyan Muslim.
Michael Cleply, a former New York Times reporter, wrote after the election that his editors often assigned stories to him with prepackaged narratives. His job was to gather facts and comments from sources to support the storyline. This is not “reporting.” It is little wonder that many people distrust mainstream media.
Got that? So from now on, whenever you read or hear that "Facts are what we do," keep in mind the reality, which is that "editors make deliberate choices to try to shape how we think about current events." It's lies, manipulation, cynicism, and hypocrisy.
The fact that the press is so biased isn't really the problem for me. Once I know the bias is there, it's easy mentally to "recalibrate" what I'm reading to account for the skew, and it's especially helpful to map a biased report onto another report from an outlet with the opposite bias. But what does bother me is the press's insistence that it's somehow committed to objective truth. "Facts are what we do." What's being sneakily left unsaid is that an agenda becomes visible when you look at the choice of facts being reported. And then, of course, there's the matter of outright lying...
On January 7, Korea Exposé published an article titled "Ethics Be Damned: South Korean Journalism Fails" by Se-Woong Koo. This article is a "J'accuse!" list of journalistic sins in the South Korean media, but it could just as easily be a condemnation of the intellectual sloppiness and moral bankruptcy of Western journalism. Interestingly, many of the commenters responding to that article thought the author was naive and out of touch with reality—that he didn't understand the true nature of journalism today. One wrote:
Ethics in journalism is an idea that only exists in ivory towers of academia, not in today's commercial and [consumption-oriented] society. [Just] as major global news outlets are controlled by major media [corporations'] (NewsCorp, AP, Reuters, AFP, Time Warner, Comcast, etc.) [boards] and shareholders, [all] other news outlets must cater to [their] readers [for survival through] clicks, [the] selling [of] ad spaces, subscriptions, and donations—even for your beloved NYT and Korea Exposé.
It's [not just] in Korea, but [also] in [the] UK, France, Germany, Japan, and the U.S. [that] you’ll readily find [a] spectrum of news organizations working for their bottom [line or] promoting their readers' agenda[s], often reflecting [their citizens' desires] and [the] political spectrum of each country without ethics [sic].
So, whether JTBC illegally produces its own news or not, let's drop all pretense [of] the notion of journalism ever having ethics or holding [itself] to a higher standard in the first place.
Basically, the commenter is affirming that journalism today is little better than prostitution, morally speaking: it's all about the acquisition of attention and filthy lucre at the cost of integrity and dignity. My response to the commenter's cynicism, though, would be (1) "Thanks for essentially agreeing with my (and the author's) condemnation of journalism," and (2) "...but not wanting to improve the situation smacks of moral cowardice. You're not even willing to speak out against the problem? All you want to do is 'drop all pretense'?"
Whatever your view of that commenter's attitude and reasoning, the larger point is that journalism is losing its luster for droves of consumers while alternative media are strongly on the rise. With any luck, the MSM will eventually either die off or radically reparadigm, but given current trends, any reparadigming may be happening too late.