The Game Has Changed

“If journalists are going to fulfill their mission to inform and equip citizens to participate in our democracy, they’ll have to overturn decades of tradition, they’ll have to resist the reflex to view the president’s every utterance as news.  They’ll have to report on the context before the tweet and to choose which facts to check. They’ll have to use more independent judgement than they have in perhaps a hundred years.”

That’s Bob Garfield of WNYC and Public Radio’s On the Media, in an episode titled The Game Has Changed, explaining why journalism in the Trump era will be different. 

Assume for a moment that you think the media has been fair, balanced and professional up until this very moment. I know. That’s difficult.

Garfield and others in the media are signaling a different plan. In the Trump era, the ‘old’ rules won’t work, because…um, ah…

Well because Bob says so.  

I’m totally in favor of reporting on context, and fact-checking the president. Journalists might be a little rusty on those two skills, as many have spent nearly a decade taking presidential utterances as news, and as gospel. 

Donald Trump seems to say things on impulse. Some might be true, but they are all news by virtue of his position. Explaining the context is good.  

If Donald Trump calls the actions of a police officer stupid, as in “…acted stupidly…” or if an attack on an American consulate is blamed wrongly on a YouTube video, then context is needed. If promises are made about the affordability of health care under an ‘Affordable Care Act,” and things obviously become more expensive for nearly everybody, then reporting is needed. If the president has foreign policies which help to create instability in the world, and he claims them to be successful…by all means, go for it. If documents and data go missing from crashed computers, wiped servers and private e-mail in the Trump administration, please treat it with seriousness. That would be a nice breath of fresh air.

What the hosts of On the Media did this weekend was to signal that Donald Trump is different. So different that there must be a new kind of journalism. Since news writers have been liars and cheerleaders for so long, I guess that’s true. 

I just didn’t expect the announcement to be so public. 

“Break out your so-called independent judgement guys, we’re going to tear this Trump guy down.” — Translated Bob Garfield.


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