Since Donald Trump’s election, the major media have been trying to figure out what they did wrong, given their fawning coverage of Hillary Clinton and their anti-Donald Trump stories. Didn’t they help twice elect Barack Obama? Why didn’t the formula work this time?
Mostly the media blame voters, talk radio and Fox News, never themselves. One might say they are in denial, a condition that has a medical definition.
The psychologywikia.com defines it: “Denial is a defense mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.”
While the major media seek to apply that definition to President Trump — Scott Pelley opened a recent broadcast of the “CBS Evening News” claiming that the president’s statement Monday about unreported terrorist attacks were part of a growing list of comments that prove he is “divorced from reality” — they ought to spend some time looking in the mirror.
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Overnight, it seems, major media have become interested in facts following eight years of ignoring lies and dissembling by Democrats and members of the Obama administration, including the president. The list is long and includes former Sen. Harry Reid’s lies about Mitt Romney, who Reid falsely accused of not paying his taxes.
How deep into denial the media have gone and how they refuse to consider what the public thinks of them was again revealed in a Washington Post column by former ABC News “Nightline” host and current CBS News contributor, Ted Koppel.
Koppel, who was always fair and friendly to me when I appeared on his program, correctly states: “democracy depends on facts.” The problem is that too many of us can’t agree on the facts because the standard by which truth was once measured has disappeared in our age of relativity. It is an Alice in Wonderland age in which Humpty Dumpty is the prophet: “'When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’”
This is the media’s fault line. Koppel writes: “There may be some temporary political advantage to be gained by tearing down public confidence in critical, nonpartisan journalism, but it is only temporary. At some point or another, everyone needs professional finders of facts.”
The liberal commentator and former CNN host, Piers Morgan, is no fan of Donald Trump, or of modern American journalism. Appearing Monday night on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on the Fox News Channel, Morgan said he recently went through 11 pages of The New York Times. Every story, every editorial and ever column was anti-Trump. Even four letters to the editor were anti-Trump, he said. That’s not “nonpartisan journalism,” that’s bias. The public gets it, even if reporters and anchors don’t, or deny their biases.
The notion that the public needs “professional finders of facts” goes beyond bias to hubris. It pretends these “professionals” don’t have a point of view and that they are evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. I defy any mainstream network to name one conservative Republican on their staff with the power to make decisions on what stories are covered and how they are covered. I once asked Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” if she could name a single conservative at CBS News. She couldn’t.
The public’s trust in major media continues to decline. Their denial ensures that decline will continue. If it is a threat to democracy, as Koppel claims, it is a threat of the media’s own making.