definitely not “first but wrong” (another take on journalism taking on authority)

DESPITE DONALD TRUMP receiving more attention from the media than all his fellow Rep*blican competitors for the nomination combined, he has another take on it: that same media is out to get him! While some of that attention was indeed negative, most of the attention was reasonably positive. In fact, it appeared at times as if the media was downright fawning!

We don’t know yet how sharp the Trump attacks will be, but we do know that we must follow the same rules that govern our work anywhere.

It’s probably fair to say that had the mainstream/corporate American media split the time they devoted to him and gave it to other Rep*blican candidates, Mr Trump might not have been the nominee, let alone be the President.

In fact, it can probably be argued that had the media devoted a small portion of their fawning on Trump towards the campaign of Bernie Sanders, the Senator from Vermont might have won the Democratic nomination.

In his first week in the White House, members of the Trump administration have taken an openly combative attitude towards journalists. Journalists of all stripes are going to have deal with that for the next four years.

At the same time, those members appear to be taking an equally combative attitude towards the truth (while embracing “alternative facts”). Journalists of all stripes are going to have deal with that for the next four years.

Another Take: caricature of Bernie sanders by Donkey Hotey.

Wholly Grommett Above! Had Bernie Sanders received half the media exposure in 2016 that Donald Trump had, he might have won by 20,000,000 votes and be President Sanders now! (Caricature by Donkey Hotey.)

Another take on authority

Reuters is one of the oldest and largest international news agencies in the world. It adheres to a rather strict policy on the terms it uses in reporting the news, as well as those it avoids. On February 1, 2017, Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler addressed the problems of how Reuters would cover President Trump’s administration—especially their way with words:

“The first twelve days of the Trump presidency have been memorable for all—and especially challenging for us in the news business. It’s not every day that a US president calls journalists ‘among the most dishonest human beings on earth’ or that his chief strategist dubs the media ‘the opposition party.’ It’s hardly surprising that the air is thick with questions and theories about how to cover the new Administration.

So what is the Reuters answer?

To oppose the administration?

To appease it?

To boycott its briefings?

To use our platform to rally support for the media?

All these ideas are out there, and they may be right for some news operations, but they don’t make sense for Reuters.

To state the obvious, Reuters is a global news organization that reports independently and fairly in more than 100 countries, including many in which the media is unwelcome and frequently under attack.

We respond to all of these by doing our best to protect our journalists, by recommitting ourselves to reporting fairly and honestly, by doggedly gathering hard-to-get information—and by remaining impartial.

We don’t know yet how sharp the Trump administration’s attacks will be over time or to what extent those attacks will be accompanied by legal restrictions on our news-gathering. But we do know that we must follow the same rules that govern our work anywhere.”

We don’t know yet how sharp the Trump administration’s attacks will be over time. Click To Tweet

Another Take: photo of Bill Gates and Steve Adler of Reuters.

Bill Gates speaks with Steve Adler during a discussion on innovation hosted by Reuters in Washington.

Let’s not be first-but-wrong

Mr Adler listed several things that Reuters journalists should do, and several that they should not do. Here are three that stood out to me:

• Give up on hand-outs and worry less about official access. Our coverage of Iran has been outstanding, and we have virtually no official access. What we have are sources.

• Get out into the country and learn more about how people live, what they think and how the government and its actions appear to them, not to us.

• Don’t take too dark a view of the reporting environment: It’s an opportunity for us to practice the skills we’ve learned in much tougher places around the world and to lead by example.

Finally, Adler stressed that Reuters will do the opposite of the mainstream/corporate American media: “We value speed but not haste: When something needs more checking, we take the time to check it. We try to avoid ‘permanent exclusives’—[being] first but [being] wrong.”

It can’t happen here

This would seem to be a more fair and more balanced take on taking on authority than National Public Radio has adopted: NPR has declared it will drop the word “lie” from its lexicon when covering politics—even when the statement from politician is “provably not true.”

Adler also fears the possibility of censorship (like they have at the EPA) and physical threats to journalists in the United States. 1

Of course, that could be mere paranoia, for as one once famous American once said, “It can’t happen here. I’m telling you, my dear, that it can’t happen here.” 2

Another Take: photo of Hugh Laurie as Dr Gregory House.

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is a publicity shot of Hugh Laurie as Dr Gregory House, television’s most lovable misanthrope. In one episode, Dr House responds to Dr Chase’s statement, “If I can’t trust you, I can’t trust your statement that I can trust you. But thanks anyway, you’ve been a big help.”


1   Mr Adler discussed the work that Reuters has done in Turkey, the Philippines, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Thailand, China, Zimbabwe, and Russia. These are nations in which Reuters “sometimes encounter some combination of censorship, legal prosecution, visa denials, and even physical threats to our journalists.”

2   From the song It Can’t Happen Here by Frank Zappa on the Mothers of Invention’s FREAK OUT album from 1966. And while this track is about “freak outs” happening across the country, Zappa was writing and singing about rightwingnuts taking over fifty years ago . . .