The news media are the story in this year’s presidential election cycle. Journalistic ethics have been abandoned in favor of the politics of personal preference. Nowhere is this more evident than in the nasty and distorted news coverage of the presidential campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump.
In a recent interview on Newsmax TV, Emmy award-winning investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson told host Steve Malzberg that she saw and heard an ex-news media bureau chief urge journalists to jettison their ethics and focus on bringing down Trump.
During the television appearance, Attkisson recounted her attendance at an awards dinner in Washington, D.C. for a journalist group.
“I was in a room of journalists in which one of them encouraged the others quite publicly to step up and do something because he said the outcome of this election was so important . . . He was talking about journalists stepping outside of their role to make sure Donald Trump doesn’t get elected. And he received applause for that,” Attkisson said.
“It’s fine for the pundits to do that but I think journalists are widely overstepping their roles,” Attkisson added.
In a recent New York Times column titled “Trump Is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism,” media columnist Jim Rutenberg justified the idea that journalists should now ignore professional standards of objectivity in their coverage of Trump. “If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional,” Rutenberg wrote.
The columnist cautioned that being non-objective may be “uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, non-opinion journalist” and would be “by normal standards, untenable.” However, according to Rutenberg, the questions with which the media are grappling are whether “normal standards apply,” and if they do not, “what should take their place?”
Rutenberg then made the case that “normal standards” should not apply when the reporting in question involves Trump. “It may not always seem fair to Mr. Trump or his supporters. But journalism shouldn’t measure itself against any one campaign’s definition of fairness. It is journalism’s job to be true to the readers and viewers, and true to the facts, in a way that will stand up to history’s judgment. To do anything less would be untenable,” Rutenberg wrote.
Ruttenberg admits that the non-objective coverage of Trump “threatens to throw the advantage to his news conference-averse opponent, Hillary Clinton, who should draw plenty more tough-minded coverage herself.” Pointedly, though, rather than being “tough-minded,” media outlets have chiefly chosen to ignore video footage of Seddique Mateen (the Orlando nightclub murderer’s father), who was sitting directly behind Democratic presidential nominee Hillary as she spoke to attendees at a rally, in of all places, Orlando.
In stark contrast to the excessively negative coverage of Trump’s every remark, the mainstream media have provided minimal coverage of the recently revealed collection of emails from Hillary’s server, which contain improper contacts between staffers of the Clinton Foundation and State Department personnel while Hillary was serving as secretary of state.
An instructive example of the type of blatant one-sided coverage that has been occurring comes in the form of a current media pastime known as “fact-checking.”
CNN recently illustrated how fact-checking is being used to distort news stories involving Trump. While discussing a remark made by the GOP presidential candidate, CNN displayed the following chyron: “Trump calls Obama the founder of ISIS (he’s not).” In order to determine that the remark actually required the factual correction that was tacked on, the news network had to first decide that the statement was meant to be taken literally; this despite the fact that it had been explained to the media and the public that it referred to the vacuum that was produced by the current administration’s policy of prematurely pulling troops from Iraq, which led to the rise of ISIS.
CNN’s fact-checking chyrons appear to be reserved primarily for the GOP nominee. The news network back in April of 2016 failed to fact-check Hillary when she called Trump the “recruiting sergeant” of ISIS.
Instead she was apparently given the benefit of the doubt that her remark was not intended to be taken literally.
In a July 2016 interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” regarding her State Department emails and the use of a private server in her home, Hillary characterized her answers to FBI Director Comey as “truthful.” “Director Comey said that my answers were truthful and what I've said is consistent with what I have told the American people, that there were decisions discussed and made to classify retroactively certain of the emails,” Hillary stated.
As a matter of fact, while testifying in front of a congressional committee, Comey indicated just the opposite, admitting that Clinton had been untruthful. Not surprisingly, CNN decided not to use any fact-checking chyrons when reporting on the Democratic nominee’s statements to Wallace, despite the video proof of her mistruth.
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
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