The traditional media have decided not to take President Trump’s insults lying down. After what may be the strongest — and to his supporters — most thrilling takedown of journalists by any president, Editor and Publisher magazine featured this headline: “Newspapers Aim to Ride ‘Trump Bump’ to Reach Readers, Advertisers.”
They may hate him, but they’re going to use him: “The Trump administration’s combative view of traditional news media as the ‘opposition party,’ and ‘fake news’ is turning out to be the best hope in 2017 for newspapers struggling to attract more digital readers and advertisers. The New York Times, the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and Gannett Co. are building on the online readership they gained during the 2016 presidential election by marketing unbiased reporting as a sales strategy.”
I laughed at that last line. Unbiased reporting as a sales strategy? It is because some Americans believe the reporting they consume is anything but unbiased that their trust in media is at an historical low. Americans still trust Congress less, but media are in there fiercely racing lawmakers to rock-bottom. If this were a limbo dance, the media trustworthy bar would be so low only an ant could get under it.
When CNN’s Jim Acosta addressed the president at last Thursday’s raucous news conference, he accused Mr. Trump of damaging the First Amendment by his frequent questioning of the media’s fairness. It is actually the other way around. Most reporters live in a bubble. They spend time with colleagues who share similar secular-progressive views and believe government is best when it is led by liberal Democrats, no matter how many times they fail the people they are supposed to represent.
This is the filter through which all ideas are measured and all questions constructed. Some reporters believe they have an obligation to hold leaders accountable, and they are right to a point, but they don’t appear to believe anyone should hold them accountable. They think they can say anything and accuse even a president of everything. And when they’re wrong, they hardly ever apologize, unless their lie is so blatant that their bosses force the issue. I can’t remember the last time any journalist apologized to any president for getting facts wrong. Don’t look for that to happen with this president, either. The major media seem hungry to destroy him.
Mr. Trump is an unconventional president dealing with conventional media. They don’t get it. He does. Trump voters hate an establishment that has done far more for itself than it has for the country. They detest a media that trashes their traditional values, faith and beliefs. Mr. Trump is their revenge and they are thrilled to watch the media get what they believe journalists have coming.
Few people would deny the right or even the obligation of journalists to be skeptical, but, in too many instances, skepticism has become cynicism. Just think of how the media characterizes all things conservative.
Think of it this way: You own a restaurant and customers are telling you they don’t like the food, your prices are too high, your restrooms are dirty and the wait staff is surly. You have two choices: address the complaints or tell your soon-to-be former customers to take their business elsewhere.
The media are like the second choice and as ratings and subscriptions sadly show, people are walking their business out the door. I seriously doubt the newspaper campaign will attract new customers. Virtuous people and noble professions usually don’t have to convince others of their virtue and nobility. It is obvious. With much of the media represented at White House press conferences, virtue and nobility are in short supply.
• Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist. His latest book is “What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America” (Zondervan, 2014).