We are witnessing in real time the fall of the American media that is stunning in both degree and rapidity.
From free-falling CNN atomic-dropping its credibility with literally made-up stories and hyper coverage to the one-time paragon of straight news reporting, the Associated Press, now also caught in literally made-up stories. Twice. Like all media, they had to be muscled into grudgingly fixing the errors — if they did so at all. These do not include the ongoing self-abasements of the New York Times, NBC News and so on.
An overtly partisan activist media is not new. But it also has not always been.
In our nation’s earliest years, the media were largely organs of individuals and the vying parties. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had some famous battles with each other during their presidencies, and those were often played out through newspapers who were overtly siding with one or the other. Importantly, every reader knew and understand the biases.
But journalism evolved so that by mid-20th century there were serious attempts at being fair and non-partisan in news coverage. Those often failed, but the attempts were real. It’s just hard to really rid the newsroom and media owner of the biases inherent in humanity. But those were sincere enough attempts to where I could still read the New York Times, even though I could see the bias.
We’ve been trending backwards since the election of Bill Clinton and the ongoing media coverups — by looking away and not reporting — the sexual predator proclivities of Clinton for very young women and those under his authority. It’s important to understand that this happened because the media is almost universally Democrat and liberal, but most believe or believed that their professionalism trumped such dominant personal biases. Here’s a brief recap of the trending liberalism.
The decline continued during the administration of George W. Bush and accelerated rapidly during the Barack Obama years. The kid-glove treatment of Obama was shocking and frustrating. The media simply took sides, as they were increasingly fellow travelers who wanted to see Obama succeed for several reasons and their reporting reflected that.
But the 2016 campaign and the actual election of Donald Trump has sent the media off the professional cliff and into the valley of hackery. It is now all the way back to where we were in the days of Jefferson and Adams. There just remains a residual overlay of the dream of a fair and unbiased media.
What is different today, however, is that the overtly partisan media is still pretending to be fair and balanced professionals. That is simply and demonstrably not true and actually adds to their already substantial credibility problem. It’s a dishonest pretense, and everyone not on the political left knows it.
CNN’s representative, cautionary tale of soul-selling
CNN is a particularly compelling example of the media collapse.
Despite being knick-named the Clinton News Network during the 90s — for good reason — it was still considered the most middle-of-the-road television news network. Fox News took the right, MSNBC went further left than NBC. The alphabet of news networks and newspapers were all left of center politically. To understand why, you have to understand why liberalism is engrained in journalism. This reality is precisely why Fox News was such a massive success — pent up market demand. Conservatives knew they were getting hosed and when they had an option, they grabbed it.
But CNN went for the center. They were locked in to all the airports and most other public places and branded themselves “The Most Trusted Name in News.” They were the epitome of professional, at least in the eyes of their viewers and themselves. They were dominated by left leaning journalists and personalities, which was reflected in their news coverage, but they could make the case to many that they were the most fair and trusted.
Then Donald Trump exited the elevators at Trump Tower.
Now remember, Trump the successful candidate was a media creation in many ways. They gave him hundreds of millions of dollars of free advertising for his rallies, smothering out the other Republican contenders, because Trump meant ratings and ratings meant money and besides, their on-air thinking was clearly that Trump probably couldn’t beat all those Republicans but as dessert, was the least able to beat Hillary Clinton and so coverage was amped.
But he did beat the Republicans and he did beat Hillary. Now as CNN and the media obviously don’t like Trump, they should have looked in the mirror and do a little soul-searching.
Instead they dove deeper into biased reporting and chasing ratings. They all realized that post-election, trashing Trump brought ratings. So they were off to the races on a two-fer: They really deeply dislike Trump, so they can both go after him heartily and boost ratings. Boom!
CNN: The most Trump-trashing name in news
According to a report from Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, the media overall, which includes Fox News, was 80 percent negative coverage during Trump’s first 100 days, and 20 percent positive.
Compare that horrible coverage to past presidents: Bill Clinton, 60 percent negative, 40 percent positive; George W. Bush, 57 percent negative, 43 percent positive; and the cradled, media-beloved Barack Obama, 41 percent negative, 59 percent positive. Note how out of line Obama is in a bi-partisan way. That’s how skewed the coverage was.
But CNN went to full-throated Trump pounding 24/7 beyond all the rest. A quite astounding 93 percent of CNN’s coverage during Trump’s first 100 days was negative. Ninety-three percent!
All of the media loved the Russian collusion story, but CNN went particularly berserk. Even as other big news was happening that in past years they would have covered live, they at best would put footage in a corner and then continue with some panel discussion or interview trying to show that somewhere in all the smoke they were blowing, there was a nefarious conspiracy that Trump’s team worked with Putin to beat Hillary.
Of course, thousands of hours of coverage later, there still is exactly zero evidence of said collusion. Nada. Even a lot of Democrats have moved on (when not talking to their base.) But CNN keeps pounding, while now adding in obstruction of justice because Trump — justifiably — fired an awful FBI director that Democrats and the media (again, basically the same) were calling for firing just weeks earlier.
It’s irrational, it has killed what is left of CNN’s credibility, and it is self-destructive.
CNN’s mafia-like response to Trump beating CNN logo meme
And finally there is the infamous gif that President Trump re-tweeted of him pummeling a logo of CNN superimposed on the face of a WWE wrestling event several years ago. It was just funny, until the media led by CNN retreated to their daily edge of insanity, claiming the president was inciting violence against journalists. (Meanwhile, still only Republicans being gunned down by a liberal CNN-watching Democrat.)
So CNN’s enforcers — that is, digital investigative team — lept into action and hunted down the creator of the gif, a Reddit user. The user, who apparently had some vile anti-semitic stuff on his account, became terrified of being outed when contacted by CNN. The violence from Antifa to Black Lives Matter to the Republican-gunning blue collar Democrat were probably in his mind. He issued a swift groveling apology on Reddit (which the moderators quickly took down) and CNN decided this time not to publish his name and location.
Why? Apparently because he apologized so profusely and promised to never, ever say bad things again. Big brother CNN would be watching. In other words, he flushed his First Amendment rights down the toilet to be safe from CNN outing him to the violent left. That falls somewhere around extortion and blackmail, but definitely in Mafia territory.
Evidence? Here’s CNN’s Kfile story explaining it. They really don’t even try to hide the reality that they are extorting him:
“After posting his apology, “HanA**holeSolo” called CNN’s KFile and confirmed his identity. In the interview, “HanA**holeSolo” sounded nervous about his identity being revealed and asked to not be named out of fear for his personal safety and for the public embarrassment it would bring to him and his family.
CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.”
And the next line is just lightening: “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”
CNN is the philosophical equivalent to acting like a local mafia enforcer. “It’d be a shame if your name got out and something happened to you or your family…”
Shocking that they did it. And shocking that they don’t seem to care if everyone knows.
All of this adds up to…falling ratings for CNN.
Even the AP is tanking its credibility
CNN is far from alone.
On the print side, the New York Times and many others long ago ditched non-partisan coverage. Now even the venerable Associated Press is not immune.
It was revealed first in this AP “clarification” — news outlets despise running corrections, admitting they were wrong. For those who don’t know, the AP is funded through an association of American media outlets and then provides news stories that are run in hundreds of newspapers and TV stations. So it is really important because its reporting is in so many newspapers. But of course, it is just symptomatic of the larger picture of media self-destruction through dishonest biases.
Here’s the lengthy correction — that is, clarification — summed up, and it’s huge:
“Not all 17 intelligence agencies were involved in reaching the assessment” on the Russians interfering on behalf of Trump’s candidacy is the key sentence. So all those people in the media and Democrat circles (there’s no significant difference) who have been reporting for months that “17 intelligence agencies agreed that the Russians hacked the election and helped Trump….” were all wrong. The circle includes Hillary Clinton, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Chuck Schumer and virtually every member of the media. And it was never true.
That’s not to say that the Russians did not interfere. They probably did. But not for the first time. The flamboyant reaction of the media is rich considering Obama interfered in the Israeli election in an attempt to defeat Benjamin Netanyahu and overtly in the British elections to try to stop Brexit.
Those election interferences by a Democrat president were met by the media with one big, collective meh.
But this isn’t even at that level. This was reported as fact. But apparently there is no “17 intelligence agencies…” all agreeing that Russia interfered? Wow. Unfortunately that will circulate as gospel on the internet forever.
And the correction itself — darn it, clarification — makes the cardinal sin of first repeating the error before saying it was actually an error. It was drilled into me as a reporter to never repeat the original error in the correction/clarification. There’s no way that report was anything other than factually wrong, requiring a correction.
But there’s more.
The AP wrote a story about a secret meeting between Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Truitt and Dow Chemical’s CEO Andrew Liveris, which was followed a few weeks later by the EPA changing policy toward one of Dow’s products. Naturally, this AP story was run by everyone because it showed the corruption that the media knows is part of the Trump administration and is just waiting to be uncovered.
This connecting of two dots to reinforce a storyline agenda — Trump administration corruption, in this case — is common practice in journalism. It’s just selectively applied depending on the political party. Further in this case, Pruitt is particularly hated by the environment journalists — remember, the ones who cheered and danced and hugged when the Paris accords were approved. They, as a group, are totally compromised but they are reporting on the EPA and Pruitt.
The fervency to get Trump and Pruitt led the AP to jettison caution. The meeting never happened. The two men shook hands at an event. That’s it. No meeting was scheduled or held. The EPA tried in vain to get the AP to correct it, and they refused until now, when alternative media outed them.
Here’s the problem with this reckless reporting in the internet age. If you google “meeting between Trump’s EPA administrator and Dow Chemical’s CEO” the first hit is the AP story in the Washington Post followed by multiple other media reporting on the meeting or the claims that the meeting did not take place.
Finally, an investigation into the AP’s journalistic skullduggery was done by — of all organizations — Breitbart News, which uncovered and reported on the impossibility of the meeting because of the public schedules of the two men. Well, that’s Breitbart, you might say. They’re not believable. Except of course that the AP finally relented and wrote an actual correction on it, saying there was no meeting. You can read Breitbart’s investigation here. Realize, this would never have been corrected before there were alternative media outlets, because no mainstream media would touch it.
The AP not only reported wrongly, just like the “17 agencies” story, they tried hard not to admit it. That is what’s also known as a cover up, as they were attempting to cover up their wrong reporting by not correcting.
So why would any conservative or Trump supporter in any way trust anything that comes from the AP, which runs in most newspapers, or CNN, which has fired people for making up stories — after they were caught — or the New York Times or Washington Post or any of them? Why, when Breitbart News, a known right-ish media outlet, is the one shining truth on the AP!
The shifting media paradigm to right and left
So here’s the future of the American media.
The mainstream media as “mainstream” and neither right or left or non-partisan is dead and no-resurrectable.
It is too late for the major media organs from CNN to the New York Times to regain any credibility outside of the left-of-center Americans, where they never lost it in the first place. Right-of-center Americans will never again trust them — and probably should not have for a long time. Americans in the political dead center will remain skeptical.
For most of our friends in Western Europe, each newspaper is understood to come with a political perspective. Londoners know that the London Times and the London Telegraph are reporting from a position on the right of the British political spectrum while the London Guardian and London Independent are reporting from a position on the left.
This is true of many major cities in Europe, although without a free press-protecting First Amendment such as the United States has, media is always different elsewhere.
This division of media by worldview of course bears with it the undesirable siloing effect that is not good for broad discourse, but it benefits from being honest to consumers. Everyone knows who is who, so those who choose to, can get their information from a right and a left view and form a fuller perspective on news and issues.
This has not really been an option in modern America in the past half-century or so, as print newspapers have declined and consolidated, leaving most cities in a monopoly environment. Ask major advertisers, such as car dealerships, how painfully real that has been. This also allowed most newspapers to veer further and further into the dominant leftist worldview pervading their newsrooms. It was not purposeful, there were just no competitor repercussions and no honest internal appraisals of the problem. People were stuck.
They are stuck no longer. Thanks to technology and entrepreneurialism, news consumers now have a broad array of media sites to choose from, at least for national news. The formerly mainstream media won’t admit it — believing that all of their losses are due to technology, not their uniform worldview.
But the market is screaming otherwise with the explosion of online conservative media sites (and traditional ones such as Fox News and talk radio) and online American media is beginning to mirror European media in that there are increasing options for news consumption.
If you want mainstream left, stick with the formerly mainstream media such as the Washington Post. If you want further left, try the Huffington Post. If you want much further left but with some depth, try The Nation. If you want near the cliff left, try Mother Jones News. Falling off the cliff is KosDaily.
If you want mainstream right, read National Review Online or the Weekly Standard or publications such as the Washington Examiner or Washington Times. Further right, try the Daily Caller or the Blaze. Further right, there is Breitbart News.
And this is our obvious future because it is already becoming our present. It is not ideal, but the opportunity to have a true and honest mainstream media has been squandered.
Like it or not, our future now is to have media options separated by worldview.
Rod Thomson is Founder of The Revolutionary Act.