Why does the American media suck? Here’s a hint in an article that is discussing how the press should respond to the farce that the White House press briefings have become. The author is against a walkout or boycott or whatever the media is calling the imaginary response that won’t happen anyway.
The White House is a lousy source of information about itself, but it is also the best available source.
Wait, what? It’s probably the worst available source — the White House is not going to ‘fess up to any perfidy. They’re going to tell you a bunch of lies and cover up any problems. Unless your story is “Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied again today”, the real story, the facts of what is going on, are buried underneath whatever message they’re peddling in the briefings. In stuff like this:
The real story of Trumpism is probably found not in the White House or even in Washington but in Ohio, in Texas, along the Mexican border, in refugee camps the world over, in Afghanistan, in Yemen, and in the Palestinian territories.
Yes. And also in Washington, in the actions the principal actors there take. Not in what they say they’re doing, but what they’re actually doing. The press briefings have become tools of disinformation, where they say what’s happening, and can trust the lackeys of the media to happily echo their story, because digging into the actual facts of what they’re doing is hard work.
But the story of how the Administration functions must still be observed up close. Walking away would give this White House exactly what it wants: less contact with the media, less visibility, ever less transparency and accountability. Walking away would feel good, but it would ultimately be a loss. Would the loss in information be greater than the gain in solidarity? That’s a hard question, but my guess is that the answer is yes.
This is nuts. What Trump wants is more attention. But he also wants to control what the media says about him, and that is what these official White House press briefings are for.
And what information would we lose? “Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied again today” is basically only one bit of information.
The Trump Administration has the media in a vise. On the one hand, most of what comes out of White House mouths is poison to the public conversation: because it’s a lie, or an expression of hate, or both. Simply reporting Trump’s lies and incendiary comments, however critically, serves to entrench his world view as a part of our shared reality. At the same time, he is the President. His Twitter pronouncements find a sympathetic audience among tens of millions of Americans. Refusing to engage with his words would mean refusing to engage with Trump voters and with the Trump Administration itself. It would mean walking away from politics altogether, which, for journalists, would be an abdication of responsibility.
The responsibility is to do more than just report what Donald Trump says — which is pretty much what the media has been doing for the last several years. It’s to analyze and investigate and report critically. What I’ve seen from the press is mostly a refusal to engage with those words already. Maybe if they broke away from their reliance on being spoon-fed talking points and had to actually find out what’s happening, they’d remember their obligations again.
Earlier in the article, the author references an intermediate strategy.
The media scholar Jay Rosen has long argued for downgrading the prestige of the White House assignment proportionately to the quality of information that emerges from the Administration. “Put your most junior people in the White House briefing room,” he has written. “Recognize that the real story is elsewhere, and most likely hidden.”
Exactly. Jim Acosta gets all the attention lately as a martyr, but contrary to usual praise, I have to say I’m not at all impressed. His questions aren’t particularly interesting, and they certainly don’t drill down to the real problems of this administration. He’s paid and rewarded with prestige for asking a crook questions that we all know he won’t answer honestly. He’s part of a hostile claque, nothing more or less.