The function of journalism, the fourth estate is to ensure citizens are accurately and truthfully informed irrespective of the political climate. It should be immune to ideological influences. Much more so then than now, Americans trusted the media because they did not perceive it as an arm of the political class.
Over the years, accelerated during the Clinton years, and placed on steroids during the Obama years, the Right Wing has used the media like a virus carrying their payload. Trump upped the ante He made himself the media’s hated darling, journalism be damned.
Those who lived through the Clinton years watched as the Right Wing recruited the media using the share values of manufactured scandals as bait. During the Obama administration, the bait, however implausible was effective. Most still remember “throwing grandma off the bus,” “Death Panels,” birther lies, and more during the Obama administration. They were given legs by either a derelict media or one incapable of doing its job because of the need for a new kind of journalism.
And then came Donald Trump. In an article written by Eric Alterman retitled “Trump’s Genius Is His Entertaining Idiocy” from its earlier title “The Trump Administration: Evil, Stupid, or Both” in the Nation points out why the media is incapable of using the old journalistic techniques to cover Trump and his administration.
I don’t blame journalists for feeling overwhelmed. They have a set of standard practices of how to go about their jobs with a degree of professionalism and self-respect, and none of that works with these people. Offer to allow them to give their “side” of an issue and they will, virtually without exception, tell a lie and call you a “liberal elitist” if you don’t swallow it. Stick to your guns by digging more deeply into the morass they’ve created, and they will sic their violent minions on you to harass you, doxx you, and, occasionally, threaten you with physical violence on social media. And their lies will be repeated literally thousands of times, on Fox, on talk radio, on Breitbart, on Drudge, on Facebook and Twitter, and often, with only the weakest caveats, on CNN, MSNBC, the networks, and the rest of the national news media. … The scale of the Trump threat is beyond our journalistic resources to expose it, much less thwart it. What’s more, Trump’s genius for distraction, self-pity, and entertaining idiocy succeeds not only in normalizing his psychopathic behavior and malevolent prejudices but also in hiding the fact that institutions that protect our freedom and democratic rights are teetering beneath a ferocious assault. We fiddle; they burn.
The current form of journalism is incapable of saving America from the likes of Trump and the misinforming institutions funded by the Plutocracy. Think tanks like the Heritage Foundation are tools the Plutocracy uses to maintain their power even as their supported policies decimate all else. They present seemingly legitimate studies and talking points the media is enticed to cover.
So today’s journalism is driven by the sheer volume of material released by the right that seems to necessitate coverage irrespective of value. Secondly, the white papers and data from Right Wing think tanks with their air of plausibility is always available to a hungry media with an increasing need for content.
Worse, however, today’s journalism continues the X said while Y said orthodoxy that no longer works because it is a system the Right gamed.
But who says we must continue the techniques learned in the Schools of Journalism. A dynamic society requires change when realities change. The Plutocracy and the Right have gamed the current form of journalism. As such, it is essential that journalists adopt a new paradigm. No longer can they allow their platforms to be a ward of the Right Wing. Journalists must be on their game. They must know the subject they are covering to ensure the minimization of bloviating misinforming subjects. Most importantly, they must never leave misinformation and lies on the table. It must be refuted immediately, in real time. If the media had practiced that form of journalism, the birther movement, death panels, and other silly lies would never have gotten traction.
It is time for a journalism where truth prevails at all cost. Misinformation must get no media delivered traction.