Mourning Journalism

See, here’s the thing…

I write a blog. Actually, to be truthful, I write a lot of blogs. You don’t know where a lot of them are because I ghostwrite them, but that’s another story. The point is, I write a blog. I use journalistic standards and I even use the AP Stylebook for a lot of my writing. But — and this is enormously important for people to remember — I don’t do journalism here. I can’t. I don’t have the budget for it. I have the skills and abilities to do it, but I don’t have the resources and I have to make a living somehow. If someone wanted to pay for me to do journalism, I am capable, but they would have to pay me enough to make a living. But as of right now, I’m not going to be like the professional let and pretend I’m a journalist.

The point I’m trying to make is, I need journalism in my life. We all do. If we are to operate in this world, we need information. And when I say information, I mean new information that we don’t already know. I need journalists who will dig deep and find the truth and then tell it to me, warts and all. I can take it. Journalism is the lifeblood of a democracy; we literally cannot function without it. How in the hell can anyone vote for someone if they know nothing about them? More importantly, if our problem is a corrupt system, how do we rid ourselves of it if we don’t know which elements of the system are actually corrupt and what they are doing?

Journalism is not dead, by any means. There is still a lot of it out there, if you look hard enough. But that’s the problem; you have to look really hard to find it. Kurt Eichenwald’s piece in Newsweek a few days ago was as good a piece of journalism as I have ever seen, and it paints a portrait of Donald Trump that should scare the crap out of any decent American. There are so many revelations in that piece that should be spread far and wide, every journalist in the country should be making the information go viral. Basically, from that piece, we discovered that Trump’s business interests will create an insurmountable series of conflicts of interest that could put our national security in danger.

Yes, that’s right; Trump has business interests all over the world and many foreign governments rely on the revenue they receive from these business interests to keep their people in decent economic shape. And yet… the rest of the press pretty much ignored it.

Let’s put it this way; the press is all over the entire Clinton family to divest themselves of their interests in the Clinton Foundation, which the Clintons have agreed to, whereas no one is even suggesting that the entire Trump Family divest themselves of Trump interests. This despite the fact that the Clintons have never taken a dime from their Foundation, while the Trump Family depends on the Trump Organization for their entire wealth. And no, I’m not talking about the Trump Foundation; that’s another con job entirely, which I will get to in another post about Trump. Darth Cheney was even forced to divest of Halliburton when he became vice president, but no one is even suggesting such a thing for Trump because our journalism sucks.

Seriously, go read the Eichenwald article and explain why Hillary’s pneumonia is even important now. (I wish her well, but it doesn’t affect her candidacy at all.) Yet, look at the stories our press handles. Look at how they weigh each story and how they tell it. For chrissakes, journalsts, do you even know how to find a goddamn story? What the hell was that journalism degree for, if you don’t even know that Hillary talking about civil rights and Trump pretending that Clinton was a birther carry the same weight? In fact, that’s a great example.

Here is a breathless story from CNN on Trump’s declaration that President Obama was born in the U.S. (Yes, no shit.) Look at this, which is the third paragraph:

But the issue isn’t likely to die down any time soon — especially as Trump continues to falsely blame Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for starting the “birtherism” controversy. Clinton said earlier Friday that Trump’s acknowledgment of Obama’s birthplace doesn’t go far enough and that he must also apologize.

“For five years, he has led the birther movement to delegitimize our first black president,” Clinton said at an event in Washington. “His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie.”

Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961.

Then, there’s a link to another story:

Donald Trump: Hillary Clinton started birther movement

What the hell? Who gives a shit where it started? Yes, her 2008 campaign was the first one to bring it up, but they dropped it back in, well, 2008. It’s gone on for almost nine years! That’s sure as hell not her fault. Trump has kept it going  for well over five years. It’s at the heart of his campaign. It’s why the white nationalists love him so much; he dogged the first Black president for years for being “other” and he is using that as the centerpiece of a campaign for political power.

However, this is about journalism. Do you know what’s missing from the story? Clarity. They spent the first four paragraphs of the story on Trump finally admitting what is actually a fact. News organizations have been pushing the birther story because it gets them the eyes, ears and clicks they want. They no longer care about being accurate; they care about “ratings.” As long as they get paid, why should they care about their reputation? Those seven words of fact, “Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961,” should have been part of the lede. That should have been the main fact. “Donald Trump has finally admitted what every intelligent American has known from te beginning; that Barack Obama was born in the UNited States in 1961.” As a journalist, you should be focusing on facts; a key fact that is completely glossed over is that Trump has been lying for five years and Hillary Clinton told the truth. That’s missing in the above.

Meanwhile, at the same time Trump was actually admitting that he’d lied for five years, Hillary Clinton was making a policy speech at the Black Women’s Agenda Symposium, just miles away in Washington. (Oh, right; did you knwow Trump made his half-assed mea culpa at the opening of the new DC Trump Tower in the Old Post Office building? And not a single reporter asked if he would divest of the property if he became president.) If you want to know about the speech, you’ll have to watch it on C-SPAN because virtually no one else covered it. The press doesn’t carry policy speeches; where’s the news in that, right? I mean, who cares what she might do as president?

How the hell are people expected to make voting decisions based on what most of the press is saying? Voters operate based on the overall impression journalists give. So, why the hell do so many people think Hillary is untrustworthy, when it’s Trump who can’t go a goddamn day without lying? When the press goes crazy over Hillary’s “lack of transparency” because she didn’t talk about her pneumonia diagnosis for TWO DAYS, while giving a pass to Trump over the fact that he is still the first presidential candidate since 1972 to not release their tax returns, how does that uphold standards of journalism? For that matter, when Hillary Clinton has released her medical records since she was in her 20s and continues to release them, but Trump goes on a TV reality show to release a two-page doctors note from a quack and the constant questions are about HER health, in what way is that journalistically responsible?

Journalism is nearly dead, folks, and it’s up to us to revive it. Stop allowing this. Modify your news diet and only follow and give your support to those journalistic enterprises who tell the truth. If they equivocate between Trump and Hillary, or even Democrats and Republicans, show them the door.

Part of the problem is with news consumers, of course. More on that in another column. In the meantime, make them tell the truth. Demand it. Needless to day, a lot more coming. I will be cutting the crap a lot this election season.

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