Since writing Part One of this exploratory essay into the role of the media, major changes have taken place in the United States. Changes that make focusing the spotlight on journalism more important than ever. This essay is more for my own knowledge, an attempt to educate myself on what I perceive as being the important issues of the day. I can’t imagine any journalist cares about my opinions with regards to their profession. I definitely do not have the background to be a legitimate or enduring voice, but this was a great opportunity to research and learn a little bit about what I perceive to be problems with the media.
In my last essay I quoted statistics and used language that was very critical of the state of journalism and the media. With this writing, I hope to offer some constructive feedback as to how media can be improved.
This administration will use deceit and lies in ways the American people have never seen before. We saw this throughout 2016 with the lead up to the election: “… 70 percent of Trump’s statements that PolitiFact checked during the campaign were false” (1).
In keeping with his lifelong trend, Trump began his presidency with an inaugural speech plagued with falsehoods and exaggerations (2). They even lied about who wrote the speech (3) The volume of lies and misinformation will create an almost insurmountable obstacle for us to understand and overcome. Having the media call out the lies is not enough. Deeper analysis and more probing investigations will be required. Slate has a great article about Trump’s lies and how they are a harbinger of fascism “Put in plain language, fascists didn’t lie to obscure the truth; they lied to signal what would eventually become truth.” (4)
With that, here is a list of suggestions about how the media can move forward when trying to report on Trump.
- Stop repeating his Tweets. Immediately. That doesn’t mean that you can’t report on them, but cutting and pasting is not journalism. And with that, stop being shocked by the things he says. He says crazy outlandish things wrapped in ridiculous lies. We all know this. So stop reporting from that angle.
- George Lakoff (5) has proposed some tools to help understand what Trump is doing with his Tweets. This will give you an excellent tool for explaining to the public what he is doing with any particular tweet. He divides them into four categories (6):
- Preemptive framing – the framing of an issue before others. Makes the viewer have to go back to the original problem and figure out what happened before you can even address the statement.
- Diversion – moves focus away from the real problem.
- Trial balloon – gets feedback about a issue without having to commit resources to it. Testing the waters, so to speak.
- Deflection – attacking the messenger.
- During press conferences, if he refuses to answer questions the next reporter called needs to repeat it. I don’t expect press conferences to be very important for the next couple of years. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to discover Trump follows the Putin model of press releases, having only one each year. Most of the work in exposing the truth will come from diligent investigative reporting.
- Learn how to file FOI requests and do so often.
- Cultivate legitimate sources on the inside of the administration. The dismantling of our Republic will come from within. There will be plenty of people on the inside looking for outlets to leak information to.
- Stop writing click bait headlines. Find authentic angles to do your story from, you will find an audience and at the same time you will begin to repair your lack of trustworthiness in the eyes of the people.
- Don’t normalize him, his administration, or their actions. What they are doing is not normal.
- Compose your headlines so that the lie is clearly indicated. Don’t just repeat the lie. Call it out every time.
- Don’t let him troll you with his tweets. You don’t have to respond or report on every thing that comes out of his phone.
- Work diligently on reporting accurate information. Rebuild trust in your product, your brands, and your journalists. Without a free, diligent, and accurate Fourth Estate there can be no Democracy.
There you go. Probably nothing revolutionary there, but it feels good to put out something positive toward creating change instead of just bitching.
Daniel Cashman, EAMP, MS (AOM), NCCAOM Dipl. Acupuncture