Each day I get up and follow a pretty straightforward routine. I glance at my email, complain about the aches and pains of middle age to my patient wife and then check social media for news …
Each day I get up and follow a pretty straightforward routine. I glance at my email, complain about the aches and pains of middle age to my patient wife and then check social media for news tips.
Inevitably, the first news tip I get seems to be a meme that says, “A VERY IMPORTANT THING HAPPENED – you won’t see that in the media!”
That’s all well and good – except it’s almost universally untrue and seems to be a viewpoint held across the political spectrum.
I’ll give two examples.
Example one: Presidential Spending.
“‘Instead of taking his salary, Donald Trump donated all $400,000 to the Department of the Interior where it will be used for construction and repair needs at military cemeteries!’ Media gave this no coverage.”
Two things. First, national media has covered the president’s donations of his salary. Second, he never donated a year’s salary to military cemeteries, and certainly not $400,000 in one payment. And that’s not a knock on the president, it’s just how his pay schedule works. The president is paid $100,000 quarterly and his most recent donation of $100,000 went toward efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a White House press release. But the more important thing is that the press has reported it – millions of times according to a simple Google search of “president donates salary.”
Example 2: Adventures in TikTok.
My wife may poke fun at me for watching TikTok videos, but I’ve found them to give good insight into things lately. Aside from my weakness for bad “Dungeons and Dragons” jokes and military homecoming videos (I’m not crying! You’re crying!) – I find that I can see citizens’ views of the items that regularly grace the Katy Times opinion page on that platform. Lately, it’s been filled with videos of police and protesters kneeling in prayer together or protesters stopping looting and violence. Those videos usually come with a disclaimer, “But you won’t see this in the media!”
Except, again, you do. A simple search for “police take a knee” churns out 380 million-plus results on Google, while “protesters stop looters” slings out more than 56 million results.
My colleagues and I have conversation after conversation about the apparent lack of support for the press lately. I don’t know many in the national outlets, but at local outlets we usually end up at: Well, if both sides are mad, we must be doing something right.
Facetiousness aside, we apparently are angering both sides. So much so that if we show up to cover a rally for either political party, we’re jeered at and made fun of. For the conservatives, we’re “those damned liberal journalists” and for the liberals we’re “the stupid lying media.” Add to that the fact that the U.S. – despite our First Amendment – is ranked 45 out of 180 countries worldwide for press freedom and you can see that the false information about journalists on social media has serious repercussions and consequences not just for journalists, but for our nation.
On May 29 police arrested a CNN crew on live television in Minneapolis, Minn. because law enforcement didn’t think they were covering it the right way. On the other side of that coin, I have seen videos of protesters attacking journalists. Some didn’t want to be filmed looting while others were angry the press hadn’t reported on the protests the right way.
Well, ok. But the “right way” according to both sides seems to be to only write articles that support their respective viewpoints. That sentiment goes for coverage of our president, protests, the price of gasoline or whether City Hall is doing enough about drainage.
The thing is – journalists don’t write to please our audience. Our outlets may have a certain leaning with their commentary, but when Fox’s Tucker Carlson calls out the president for a well-documented lie, he’s attacked by conservatives, despite reporting the facts. Or when MSNC reports poll results favoring Joe Biden’s chances to win the presidency by seven percentage points, liberal voices attack MSNBC for numbers that already favor their candidate – but somehow, not quite enough. Trump said what he said. Carlson reported it. The poll showed what it showed. MSNBC reported it. It doesn’t matter if the audience likes it. We’re here to inform, not blow smoke … well, you know where.
The press is the watchdog on government. George Floyd’s death went viral in large part because of media outlets covering it. Trump has donated millions of his salary to causes conservatives support – and you know the truth of it because of the media, not in spite of it – whether that antimedia meme says otherwise or not.