When Standards Are Tossed Out The Window Truth Is The Casualty
Journalist Lara Logan was hot shit when CBS News hired her in 2002. The South African had been a first-rate war correspondent who’d proven she could get the people that mattered on a story. Soon, she was appearing on 60 Minutes and the network’s top programs.
In one unfortunate incident she got too close to a story, being sexually assaulted in a riot in Cairo in 2011. She also was forced to apologize for a story that was incorrectly sourced, an incident that resulted in a brief suspension by the network.
But no one would suggest that she has no credibility to speak about the current state of journalism. So when she followed her recent resignation from CBS with a blistering attack on the current state of the business she (and to some extent, I) inhabit, it should have been a wakeup call to everyone in the fourth estate.
It might have been hailed as a sober look at how stories are reported in the Age of Trump. Except Logan deviated from the liberal status quo that grips the industry. "I mean, you read one story or another and hear it and it’s all based on one anonymous administration official, former administration official,” Logan told Mike Ritland’s podcast Mike Drop. “That’s not journalism. That’s horse shit. Sorry. That is absolute horseshit.”
What Logan had experienced— in the manner of a few others like Sharyl Atkinsson— was the falling-away of the blinders on her eyes about her profession. What she once had proudly proclaimed as balance was pack mentality, groupthink, self-reinforcement. Bias. Liberal bias in a place that need equal measures of all philosophies.
It took her awhile to recognize and then to act of this problem. “I didn’t even notice there was a bias in the media. People would say it to me all the time and I argued passionately and ferociously against that because I really believed when we do it well, and the majority of serious journalists were all trying to do their best to overcome those biases and rely on the facts and good systems. We have a few conventions — because they are not really rules — but you need at least two first-hand sources for something, right? Those things help keep your work to a certain standard. Those standards are out the window.”
In many cases the biases are inadvertent, the result of only knowing one sort of people in one proscribed culture. With predictable results. “The media everywhere is mostly liberal. Not just in the U.S. But in this country, 85 percent of journalists are registered Democrats. So that’s just a fact, right?... Most journalists are left or liberal or Democrat or whatever word you want to give it. I always joke about the other 14 percent were too lazy to register. And there’s maybe one percent that’s on the right.”
The result has been a brainwashing of the public, using Trump as an excuse for ransacking their standards. “The problem is the weight of all of these organizations on one side of the political spectrum. When you turn on your computer or you walk past the TV or you see a newspaper headline in the grocery store, if they are all saying the same thing, the weight of that convinces you that it’s true. You don’t question it because everyone is saying it.”
The same effect operates on the people reporting the news, too. How can so many people be wrong about Trump? So they cave to consensus.
Because the media is a closed circle it has leapt past its traditional role to something that is judge, jury and prosecutor. Journalist James Rutenberg captured the insular cult it in 2016: “If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, non-opinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable. But the question that everyone is grappling with is: Do normal standards apply? And if they don’t, what should take their place?”
Nowhere in this deep thinking does Routenberg ever consider how the other half of America— the one that voted Trump— felt about Obama pushing recklessly into uncharted territory. It’s all about the feelings within his team and the need for action.
Convinced of their virtue, cut off from large segments of the public, desirous of fame, “The media went from fabrications about Trump’s supposed removal of the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Oval Office,” writes Victor Davis Hanson, “to the mythologies in the Steele dossier, to lies about the Trump Tower meeting, to assurances that Michael Cohen would testify to Trump’s suborning perjury, and on and on.”
Add Covington and Jussie Smollett to that list in the past three weeks. It’s not a blip. It’s liberals, desperate to expunge the guilt of Trump’s win in 2016, self-reinforcing their prejudices.
BTW: While the Daniel Dales of the Toronto Star and the Jennifer Rubins of the Washington Post and hundreds— perhaps thousands of other so-called honest brokers— have hammered Trump with everything they’ve got (or invented), the president’s approval rating has now crept over 44 in the RCP average.
So maybe there’s hope after all that the ordinary people see better than the ones entrusted with informing them.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the publisher of his website Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also a best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand: How Salary Caps Are Killing Pro Sports And Why The Free Market Could Save Them is now available.