Last week, there was an outbreak of tweeting in which the president decried “fake news” which, by now, we know is dog-whistle for “news I don’t like.”
He mused whether he should revoke the White House Press Corps credentials of those outlets who publish and broadcast negative stories.
This, from a person for whom media attention has been like mother’s milk for 40 years.
While such bloviating might play to the fan base, it is fantasy to think a ban would stop reporters from filing stories.
If he doesn’t believe it, then he should do it.
There isn’t a leader alive or dead who has enjoyed media scrutiny, who hasn’t complained about reporters’ questions, angles and motives. Most, however, understand why a free press is a necessity.
From this country’s beginning, politicians have tossed choice and unprintable words at reporters, but none of any substance has ever crossed the Rubicon by describing the press as the “enemy of the people.”
That’s despot talk.
Every cause for change, every step of progress this country has made, from ending slavery to defeating dictators, was first taken up by the press.
We’re here today because colonial-era newspapers pressed the cause for independence long before the Continental Army was organized.
We see every day what happens in countries where there’s no such thing as a free press. It’s not a coincidence that some of the richest people on earth exert power in countries where a free press doesn’t exist.
An officeholder who promises to serve one or two terms suddenly becomes “president for life.”
Those journalists who try to expose corruption suddenly turn up dead.
Right now, the biggest threat to this country is not the press, but those who have figured out they can sow chaos by using that which resembles journalism just enough to fool, anger and frighten us.
What makes us unique is that free speech is the first thing we enshrined, right out of the gate. President John F. Kennedy noted the press is the only industry specifically protected by the Constitution.
Was the media of Kennedy’s own day derelict in not covering some of his issues? Yes.
The current president contends the media ignores or under-reports the administration’s successes, but then steps on his own narrative because he cannot resist settling scores, real and imagined.
It isn’t enough to tout employment statistics or possible peace with North Korea. It must be done while denigrating others.
‘Breaking’ news is broken
Media is a public service, but it’s also a business. Consumers have every right to refuse to patronize those which fail in their duty.
But that’s not a call for a president to make.
I recently met a Canton (Ohio) Repository reader who is concerned that news is in danger of being swallowed up by a nonstop flow of opinion, rather than straight reporting.
She’s right. Because of a push for profits, the constant feeding of social media and fear of a 24-hour hole, cable news outlets in particular create smash-ups using with so-called experts, and the facts are getting lost in the yelling, histrionics and finger-pointing.
Other outlets constantly tout “breaking news” as to render the term meaningless.
Yet with all this, imagine trying to find out what’s going on in the world without people who are willing to search for information and report it.
Now, maybe you’re thinking that wouldn’t be the worst thing. But what happens when the people you support no longer hold power?
If the press is permitted to be harassed, threatened and bullied out of doing its job, it won’t stop with us. It will end at you trying to explain why you said what you said about the government while sitting at your own kitchen table.
— Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or email@example.com.