Maybe there are some cracks in the wall. God, I hope so.
Two media critics affiliated with major news organizations have recently come right out and stated what we have been talking about here on Ethics Alarms regarding the failure of journalists to observe core ethical standards in their commitment to bring down a President who horrifies them, and who has not taken his abuse lying down, as Presidential norms previously required.
The sharp contrast with Greenfield and Kurtz’s remarkable candor that marks most of their industry was on display today, as The Washington Post held a series of panel discussions and aired live video around the theme “Americans & The Media: Sorting Fact from Fake News.” One segment featured Post political reporter Dan Balz, one of the Post reporters I would categorize as a straight-shooter most of the time, talking to PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff and Fox Special Report host Bret Baier. Woodruff’s comments were obtuse and depressing, but typical of most journalists and their defenders.
BALZ: Judy you said something recently I want to read to people: “You shouldn’t go into journalism if you want to win a popularity contest. If you’re doing your job, there are always going to be people who criticize your reporting. But we’ve never been at a place like we are today where there’s practically an entire industry around criticizing the media and holding the mainstream media up as suspect [ Balz didn’t read, but she also wrote, “and out to destroy an entire political philosophy in this country.” Well I said “most of the time.”]. I think the term ‘fake news’ has done a lot of damage to the media.” Describe the damage.
WOODRUFF: The damage is in the minds and the eyes of people who are consumers all across the country. And you see it in the polls. You see it in this [Knight Foundation] poll, a lessening of trust in the news media. I believe – it sounds corny, but I believe so passionately that a free press, free media, the role that we play, news media in our democracy, is part of what holds democracy together. And if enough Americans start thinking the press is not to be believed, that we are to be shoved to the side, regulated, or treated, controlled in some way, then I think we’ve got real problems. Even if it doesn’t get to that point, and they just don’t believe what we’re doing, then I think our democracy is weakened, and I think that’s what’s happening.
Got that? It’s the critics who are undermining the news media, not the unethical news media conduct that justifies the criticism! This quote is astounding. Journalists like Woodruff don’t see anything wrong with how they are doing their job, or rather not doing it. What harms democracy, Judy, is journalists behaving so unethically that the the public loses trust in them, not the criticism.
Now here are the two Ethics Heroes that do not parrot Woodruff’s defensive spin:
Hero #1: Jeff Greenfield is old (74) now, and not as visible as he once was, He is a voice people in his profession still listen to, because his credentials are undeniable. He’s a lawyer, and served as a speechwriter for Senator Robert F. Kennedy, so his liberal credentials are in the bank. He was one of the first and most prominent media and and culture reporters, performing that role for CBS News from 1979 to 1983, and was a senior analyst at CNN from 1998 to 2007. He currently hosts PBS’s “Need To Know” program—I’ve never seen it— and also occasionally does political commentary on NBC Nightly News. He has three Emmy Awards.
Over the weekend, Greenfield took part in an already infamous a debate on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” hosted by the so-biased and defensive about CNNs hackery it hurts my teeth alleged media critic Brian Stelter. Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress and former Hillary Clinton policy director did her best Joy Reid impression by claiming that the media didn’t listen to the anti-Trump resistance enough. She really did. (Here was the amusing reaction of CNN’s token conservative. S.E Cupp).
Greenfield noted how many people listen to certain media outlets because it caters to what they want to hear. “And I was told it’s like sinking into a nice warm bath. And I think on both sides of the divide, people are sinking into nice warm baths to reconfirm what they believe,” he said in part, stunning Stelter by fingering CNN as just such a warm place for “the resistance.”
Which, of course, it is, and intends to be.
He went on…
The idea that when I watch CNN sometimes, I think, I expect the indictment on Donald Trump to be imminent because the focus on Russian collusion and that issue is very strong. And if you turn on MSNBC, you’re going to get pretty much a nightly dose of the prosecutor’s case against Donald Trump.
After Tanden complained—she really did!—that the New York Times —THE NEW YORK TIMES!!!–-didn’t devote enough space to anti-Trump coverage (Like here, for example), Greenfield declared the obvious, saying,
Well, if you are a regular reader of The New York Times, for the last two and a half years you have gotten a full dose of view that Donald Trump is hellaciously unfit to be president. Just today, if you pick up the Times there is an editorial basically calling him out in harsh terms and at least four op-ed pieces in varying degrees saying that Trump is utterly unfit to be President.
Greenfield was never a favorite of mine, because he is still biased and often smug about it, and while he is honest about the bias in the news media, he is surprisingly uncritical, just matter-of-fact. At this stage in the progressive ethics rot of his profession, however, merely having the integrity to state the facts—unlike Woodruff, unlike Reid, unlike the insufferable hack Stelter—is enough to qualify as an Ethics Hero.
Ethics Hero #2, Howard Kurtz is not hesitant to be critical in his new book.
Kurtz wrote for The Washington Post as a news media reporter press from 1990 to 2010. From 1998 until 2013, Kurtz was Stelter’s predecessor at CNN’s Reliable Sources, unlike Stelter genuinely scrutinizing the media’s fairness and objectivity. Kurtz left the Post for The Daily Beast, writing on media and politics until 2013. He was fired after some erroneous reporting and weaselly efforts to duck responsibility, and the scandal ended his tenure at CNN as well. His ethics record sullied, he moved to join Fox News to host a weekend media program called Media Buzz. It is infinitely better than Stelter’s fake ethics show, but insufficiently critical of Fox. Kurtz also is greedy, and has been accused of insufficiently flagging conflicts of interest.
No, I don’t particularly trust Kurtz. But in the Hollywood Reporter, of all places. as he promotes his new book, Kurtz writes,
Donald Trump is staking his presidency, as he did his election, on nothing less than destroying the credibility of the news media; and the media are determined to do the same to him. This is not just a feud or a fight or a battle. It is scorched-earth warfare in which only one side can achieve victory. To a stunning degree, the press is falling into the president’s trap. The country’s top news organizations have targeted Trump with an unprecedented barrage of negative stories, with some no longer making much attempt to hide their contempt. Some stories are legitimate, some are not, and others are generated by the president’s own falsehoods and exaggerations. But the mainstream media, subconsciously at first, has lurched into the opposition camp and is appealing to an anti-Trump base of viewers and readers, failing to grasp how deeply it is distrusted by a wide swath of the country.
These are not easy words for me to write. I am a lifelong journalist with ink in my veins. And for all my criticism of the media’s errors and excesses, I have always believed in the mission of aggressive reporting and holding politicians accountable.
But the past two years have radicalized me. I am increasingly troubled by how many of my colleagues have decided to abandon any semblance of fairness out of a conviction that they must save the country from Trump….Every president gets pounded by the press. But no president has ever been subjected to the kind of relentless ridicule, caustic commentary and insulting invective that has been heaped on Trump. I have a name for this half-crazed compulsion to furiously attack one man. It’s called Trump Trauma.
(I call it unethical journalism.)