I intended to end this post regarding President Trump’s Fake News Awards with what I felt was an important observation, and when the post became longer than I intended, I forgot to add it.
So I will add it now:
Presidents shouldn’t hand out compendiums of fake news and poor journalism at year’s end. Journalists should. Newspapers, like the Times, Post, and Wall Street Journal. Broadcast news organizations, like the major networks and CNN. They should do it because it’s important, and because it’s news.
They should do it because they should want their readers and viewers to know that they care about biased, incompetent news reporting, and recognize how damaging it is to the public and our democracy.
They should do it to prove that they know what unethical journalism is. They should do it because true professions are capable of self-policing, and maintaining ethical standards by pointing out serious breaches. Bar associations publish the names of lawyers who have been disciplined and what they did to violate the profession’s rules. Professions that try to protect their worst members have sided with them and against the public they are pledged to serve.
If news organizations treated unethical journalism as newsworthy, reporters and editors would know that someone was watching who knew when they were cutting corners and crossing lines. The public would know that when the news media betrayed the public trust, the profession wouldn’t circle the wagons, make excuses, or deny anything was wrong, but instead publicize the misconduct, explain why it was unacceptable, and admonish the miscreant.
News organizations don’t do this, do they? Oh, CNN will attack Fox News, and Fox News will criticize MSNBC, but that has nothing to do with ethics, and everything to do with partisanship and competition. If the New York Times were trustworthy, it would regularly report on its own biased stories and fake news, as well as those of CNN and Fox News. If CNN were ethical, it would treat the disgraceful bias and incompetence of its colleagues—and itself—in 2017 as the vitally important news story that it is.
That none of the news organizations have the integrity and courage to cover this story tells us everything we need to know about the current state of journalism in the United States of America.