I attended Temple University for a semester. I planned to study journalism and then go work for some media company, but life got in the way.
I don’t take issue with my time there, nor do I have a problem with journalism in general. However, the state of journalism in the United States is embarrassing. Typically, these problems wouldn’t feel so dire if we weren’t in the middle of one of the most critical elections of our lifetimes.
There have been a few instances over the past couple of weeks that are humiliating for the news media. Let’s start with last week’s dueling town halls between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. There was supposed to be a debate. But after the President’s COVID-19 diagnosis, the Commission on Presidential Debates decided that they would hold it virtually, so President Trump canceled.
“That’s not what debating is all about — you sit behind the computer and do a debate, it’s ridiculous,” Trump said, “and then they cut you off whenever they want.” He threw a fit.
In response, Biden decided to hold a town hall with ABC News in Philadelphia. Nevertheless, President Trump couldn’t be left out, so he decided to have a town hall on the same night — at the same time — with NBC News in Miami.
This issue I see is that NBC News rewarded the president with free airtime after he walked out on the previously scheduled debate. NBC News faced internal backlash for organizing this town hall. The irony is the president continued his usual attacks on the media and sent out a tweet hours before the NBC News town hall, claiming it to be “fake” news once again.
The media has a responsibility to be truthful, and I understand the desire to show that you’re giving both sides a platform. But that’s not what they are doing. They are inconsistent in their coverage. They provide an unfettered platform to Trump, and at the same time, harp on the smallest things about Biden and compare the two men as if their reactions to the media are equivalent.
Recently the New York Post published a series of articles that purport to the emails from a laptop that belonged to Biden’s son, Hunter. I will not be linking to these because the computer, which is just a rehash of the things that led to President Trump’s impeachment, doesn’t even show anything explosive. And the FBI is currently investigating whether it’s linked to a Russian disinformation campaign.
One of the articles shows what appears to be a series of text messages between Biden and Hunter from when Hunter was in rehab for drug-related issues. That’s all the article is. It’s sleazy reporting. How bad is this reporting? So bad that other reporters from the New York Post have spoken out about it, and one even refused to put their name in the byline.
So how has the media responded to this? They have seemed to learn some lessons from 2016, in that they are making sure viewers and readers understand that this appears to be disinformation, possibly from foreign intelligence services attempting to meddle in our elections again.
There are also some cases where a reporter asks Biden a question and he rightfully and forcefully dismisses it, but you have reporters that claim these dismissals are adopting the “Trump playbook.”
Excuse me? President Trump has spent four years calling journalists the “enemy of the people,” having them thrown out of the White House and has mused about putting reporters in jail. No, Biden’s response was not from the “Trump playbook.” I understand the reporter’s frustration that they may not like Biden’s answer, but stop treating these two men as if they are the same. They aren’t.
Why this disparity? I’m not sure. Maybe the Trump era has given journalists some excitement. Indeed, the importance of journalism has increased. And possibly, if Biden wins, politics will be somewhat dull. Maybe that will be hard on some reporters who have used the Trump era to grow their reputations.
But you know who might not want politics to take up every day of their lives? The single mother who works two jobs to feed her kids, or the senior citizen couple trying to afford their prescription medications.
Political journalists live in a bubble, and it’s apparent to any observer of their behavior over the last four years, especially during this campaign which has been rather dull and stable. I’m sorry, media, you’re probably not going to get the exciting horse race you were hoping for, and that’s OK with the rest of us.
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