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

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by — Posted in Neal's Rants (Mostly Political)

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 . . .

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