What we (the media) have learned since Trump’s election

The following is a news analysis[hr]

[dropcap]E[/dropcap]ighteen tumultuous months into the Trump presidency, there’s one thing we’ve learned about the media.

For all our hand wringing over how badly we missed the forecast on Donald Trump’s electability; for all the self-flagellation over obvious signs conveniently ignored; for all of our admissions that we’d gotten so stuck in our own echo chamber, we couldn’t see what was before our eyes; for all of our pledges to re-examine the way we report, seeking to peer outside the DC-New York City bubble; for our promises to listen rather than preach and to report rather than tell people what to think— we didn’t mean it.

A major event last week removed any doubt— the news coverage after President Trump’s meeting with Russia President Vladimir Putin. One universal world view dominated. At best, the meeting and press conference were disasters or treacherous. At worst, Trump proved to be a downright traitor.

To be clear, there’s certainly nothing wrong with reporting those views. The problem is they were reported to the near-exclusion of opposing viewpoints. They were elevated beyond the realm of “opinion” and given the status of indisputable fact.

After a tsunami of media and establishment members of both political parties parroted the same prevailing view, often laced with venom and disgust, there didn’t seem to be many willing to publicly step forward and argue the point. But it was an incomplete portrait of reality.

For example, a longtime Democrat who is African-American and was an upper-tier government official in the Obama administration, who supported and donated to President Obama, contacted me after the Trump-Putin meeting. He told me he gets ridiculed by colleagues every time he “acknowledges Trump’s diplomatic talents.”

“I see [Trump] as a disruptive genius,” this former diplomat told me after the infamous news conference.

[quote]I see [Trump] as a disruptive genius.[/quote]

A former intel official who is not a Trump supporter nonetheless opined to me that if Trump “colluded” with Russia—a notion he calls “ridiculous”—then Trump wouldn’t be the slightest bit equivocal. The conspiracy (he believes) would obviously include Trump harshly denouncing Putin as part of the cover.

But the prevailing media narrative proved impossible to pierce. It seemed set from the moment the news conference concluded— maybe even before it began.

The Anatomy of a Media Narrative…

One example is CNN. When I anchored there a long time ago, it was my job to briefly and factually summarize live news events afterwards. Viewers were largely left to draw their own conclusions. Today, it’s done differently. CNN commentator Anderson Cooper was ready to pounce after the Trump-Putin news conference, declaring it to be “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president.”

Coincidentally, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) happened to choose the exact same words. He tweeted and issued a press release declaring the press conference to be “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president.”

It’s almost as if they were reading from the same page.

Both men are pretty much sworn enemies of the president for their own reasons. Their animus toward Trump and vice-versa are near-legendary. For a reality check, news audiences are relatively small. The cable news audience is even tinier than broadcast. Most Americans probably couldn’t tell you who Cooper is (or who I am). Yet Cooper’s commentary was widely treated as if it were somehow news.

CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin quickly tweeted “Anderson Cooper nailed it.”

[quote]One of the most disgraceful performances by an American president.[/quote]

Washington Post liberal gossip columnist Erik Wemple advanced the narrative. “One of the most disgraceful performances…” read the Post headline. “Anderson Cooper Nails Summit.”

Cooper’s swipe was quickly uploaded as a clip on YouTube with the title: “Anderson Cooper: Disgraceful performance by Trump.” You’d have thought it was the most important happening in the world— the surprise of the century. The true shock would have been if Cooper hadn’t criticized Trump.

No matter. Vox, Hollywood Reporter, MSNBC, Breitbart and many more followed suit. They quickly wrote, posted and tweeted their own versions of the “story” about Cooper commenting about Trump.

I think it’s the same dynamic that prompted us to get the 2016 election so wrong. We’re blurring the line between fact and opinion. We’re “reporting” in a one-sided fashion, seeking to convince the audience that there are no legitimate countervailing views. We try to convince people to believe what we want them to believe. In doing so, we miss what’s really happening.

Many viewers do love getting a large dose of opinion from CNN, FOX News, The New York Times or the National Review— and there’s nothing wrong with that. But with few exceptions, the opinions of the reporters or commentators aren’t really themselves headline news. Treating them like they are only serves to advance a singular chosen narrative and crowd out fair, fact-based treatments of important events. It gets us no closer to representing or understanding reality.

As much as all of this this hurts the public in terms of information, we’re hurting ourselves even more. We’re eroding public confidence in the media as an institution.

We might as well still be insisting that Trump will never get elected.[hr]

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26 thoughts on “What we (the media) have learned since Trump’s election”

  1. Sharyl, its the same with Mueller/(reporting on) MSM, Collusion, interfered, meddling, obstruction…
    The MSM like to mix all those words up, and NOT give facts. As with Trumps Political opponents, D’s/R’s.
    And when I see some MSM clips going after Trump, its more comical than the late night “comedians”

  2. “We try to convince people to believe what we want them to believe. In doing so, we miss what’s really happening.”

    Oh please! Your readers can handle the truth. The U.S. media has turned into Pravda. All true journalists who don’t join the Party… er, I mean do what they’re told, are sent on extended vacations, often ending up at RT. What’s been happening in the media for years now is not naive, misguided or incompetent; it’s orchestrated from the highest levels and it’s purposefully misleading. Nobody is “missing what’s really happening” except the trusting public. It’s propaganda plain and simple. I assume you can’t say it so I will.

  3. It is most welcome, in these most dangerous of times–where both political parties must be treated as suspect, to have one honest to gosh real journalist who will call things as they are, regardless of who or whom it favors.

  4. I’ve been a fan of Sharyl’s work since she was reporting from Sarasota and Bradenton for a Tampa TV station. A solid journalist with integrity. Thanks, Sharyl.

  5. The breathless way opinion is being covered has really damaged the reputation of the news media. I personally hope the journalists continue to double down in the vitriol that they report because their bias has been unmasked. Once it is unmasked, it is incredibly difficult to transition back to objective journalism.

    If journalists wanted to dig deeply and ask the tough questions news would be incredibly diverse. There are loads of different angles that never get reported with the 24 hour news cycle. The summit for instance could have covered the IC slight, LNG exportation, strengthening positions in NATO, strengthening positions in Ukraine, diplomatic implications, geopolitical maneuvering, the precedent of interviewing translators and many other topics. Unfortunately, the news media seems to have a universal and singular focus on the misstep during the press conference. How can that many news outlets pick the exact same story and angle to cover unless they are working together in some way?

  6. The media have learned nothing. They are incapable of learning. The schools which granted their degrees indoctrinated them with radical leftist thought. Once their brains are in line with their radical leftist/communist professors it is impossible for media types to believe any other point of view. It is my profound hope that this lack of the ability to listen to any other point of view doesnt lead to more violence than we have already been subjected to

  7. Jim Whittaker, Hemet, California

    Have you ever seen a fish flopping around on the ground after it’s been
    caught and removed from its natural surroundings? That’s exactly what
    you’re watching with all the liberal teeth gnashing and garment rending.
    The Death Throes of the Democrat Party and the Liberal Establishment.
    They know they’ve lost, everything. And there’s not a damned thing they
    can do about it. Nothing. Ever again.

    It’s a beautiful thing indeed to see.

  8. FYI Full Measure is not showing on CBS KEYE here in Austin, TX.

    Face The Nation followed by Joel Olsteen occupies that time slot.

    Thought you should know – Time Warner

  9. Thank you Sharyl for continuing to be an honest and ethical journalist. Fake news abounds everyone and it’s sad to see an outlet like CNN go from a reputable news organization for many years to a bunch of agenda-driven ideologues who only report on anything having to do with Trump. It’s Trump 24/7 with CNN. You’d think there was nothing else happening in the country or the world for that matter. Sad.

  10. The inbreeding of today’s media journalists boggles the mind. It’s like there is a unwritten code
    to po – po the actual happenings and ignore reality. Trumps activity and success’ make Obama
    look like a weak, ignorant also ran president. Actually he was an ignorant “cover your ass”

  11. Don L

    You said,”..–where both political parties must be treated as suspect .…” It seem to me you are implying we have two(2. zwei, dos) parties. I am only aware of the uniparty.
    What is the “other” party?

  12. It’s interesting that Attkisson seems to think that…now…she is “reporting” the truth. She, as well as all the other lying liberal democrat mass media people, going back as far as Edward R. Murrow, who lied about Senator Joe McCarthy, Walter Cronkite, who lied about the Tet Offensive, to Dan “Anyone but Bush” Rather, who lied about G.W. Bush, and COLLUDED withCBS to try to direct the outcome of a national, presidential election…as well as the group of butt picking monkeys presently occupying the “anchor” chairs at the fake news networks, and lying 24/7 about President Donald Trump, have never been truthful with the public, but, instead, spun and twisted THEIR OPINION to try to direct public thought and policy.

    Attkisson only “”turned on her previous lying liberal democrat friends/employers because she got spurned.

    There is a real, and subversive agenda going on in this country against President Trump, the America people, and America itself. Attkisson and all the rest have helped fuel this treasonous monopoly of America hating liberal democrat mass media hysteria, and given them the arrogance to attack a duly elected president, his wife, family, and all of his supporters with vulgar, outrageous, offensive names, lies and distortions.

    Attkisson is better now than she was in the past…but her roots run deep into the lying liberal democrat party…and for that she can NEVER be trusted.

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