The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan took a closer look at the, god help us, “controversy” of an evening news anchor refusing to sugar coat Trump’s historically bad presidency:
With the words “credibility questioned” prominent on the screen, Scott Pelley once again is doing what network evening-news anchors generally don’t do: abandoning careful neutrality in favor of pointed truth-telling.
He is talking Thursday night about President Trump. And here are some of the words he is using: “his boasting and tendency to believe conspiracy theories.”
That opening paragraph is the most wince-inducing unintenional condemnation of the news I’ve ever heard. The idea that telling the truth, pointed or otherwise is not an act of neutrality is precisely why America looks the way it does and why Donald Trump is president. Sullivan is not being critical of the media in her article but it’s hard not to cringe at how radical Pelley’s reporting appears in this day and age:
Bettag’s University of Maryland journalism students have been struck by Pelley’s approach, he told me.“
Some of them think it’s snarky,” he said. “There’s the sense of ‘You can’t say that, can you?’ ” Others in the class like Pelley’s directness: “It splits about 50/50.”
These are people who want to be journalists and half of them think that plainly stating facts is snarky or untoward, possibly unprofessional. Yellow journalism was bad with its hype and dishonesty but forced neutrality and even more forced equivalence is far worse; it’s allowed one political party to inject white nationalism and fascism into our body politic. Sorry, it didn’t “allow” it, it actively enabled it.
An oft quoted line from George Orwell is, “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” And here we are, marveling at the revolutionary act of an evening news anchor not lying about what the president is doing. This is how far we’ve sunk as a nation.
The right, of course, is deeply offended that Pelley and other evening news anchors like NBC’s Lester Holt and ABC’s David Muir are not glossing over Trump being obviously incompetent and a pathological liar to boot:
Conservative media watchdogs don’t see it that way. The Media Research Center considers CBS a liberal outlet, has for many years. Trump’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, got a much friendlier reception on CBS, said Tim Graham of the MRC.
When Pelley makes his remarks about Trump, “we’re going to remember, this is not the way you were with other presidents,” Graham said.
“We’re going to remember?” And do what? Call them “liberals” for another 40 years? The very well-funded conservative movement has spent decades and the combined GDPs of several countries to whip the media into submission. Needless to say, watching all of their work unravel is going to ruffle a few powerful feathers. Even their big guns, “liberal media bias” and “fake news” are losing their potency. And that’s a problem. Without the press to carry water for them, how can conservatives sell their bill of goods to the public? We’ve seen the first major causality of this inability to snowjob the country as Trumpcare pulled a Titanic; slamming into the iceberg of public rage and then dragging both Trump and the Republicans down with it. Imagine what’s going to happen when the press refuses to pretend that the GOP’s tax cuts will actually be good for anyone that’s not a millionaire?
If only Trump hadn’t gone all in on demonizing the press, they might have kept gamely playing along. But by removing any possibility of currying favor with the administration or the right wing, more and more of the media are reverting back to doing their actual job of reporting facts instead of dishonest “he said/she said” transcription.
Hell, I just may start watching the evening news again…
There are 588 days left to the 2018 elections.
– This article kills fascists
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I’m a stay at home dad, father to a special needs son and a special daughter, a donor baby daddy, a militantly pragmatic liberal, the president of the PTA, a hardcore geek and nerd and I’m going to change the world. Or at least my corner of it.