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

Es­ti­mated reading time is 5 min­utes.

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!

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, Trump might not have been the nom­inee, let alone be the President.


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.


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.”


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

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.”


Frank Zappa - It Can’t Happen Here

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

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

House stare neutral 1000

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 (hah!) mis­an­thrope. In one episode, 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   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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