Sunday, November 27, 2016

Blank Verse: The Press Should Organize

This is a Special Edition of Blank versus Blank. This post is the presentation of a single side of an issue. Because it is only one perspective, we call this a Blank Verse.

This Blank Verse is presented by Doug.

SNL Skit on the Robotic News Cycle.

A month ago---right before the election, my brother and I explored the Press. Since then, some things have changed: Trump is now President Elect. However, interactions between Trump and the Press have not changed. This is very troubling if you believe in a strong Fourth Estate.

This week I again saw the Press wrestling with how to report on Trump and his actions. In past elections, President Elects have followed established norms:

  • releasing tax information
  • divesting from business ventures
  • removing any sign of impropriety between business and government
  • arranging meetings (especially foreign government) through established protocols
  • avoiding mixing family with political appointments
However, Trump is not following these norms. Mixed in with these troubling turns from tradition is Trump's side-show-style Tweets from his Twitter account. It is very odd in our culture for someone in such a position of political power to constantly be complaining about a specific newspaper (New York Times), Broadway plays, and protesters. 

The very real problem for the Press is: how do you report such activities? How do you give balance to concerns about white nationalists in senior staffing positions, and peculiar tweets ranting on private companies? In addition, Trump is not letting down on his ant-Press rhetoric. Apparently he give a 20 minute rant when he met with the Press on Monday Nov 21, 2016. Many of the Press thought that this would be a meeting to do a "reset"--- a fresh start. But, of course not. A double-down from Trump.

This is war, and the Press should fight back. Of course, I am not in media, nor in the media business, but just an academic. But I see some things that I believe could help the Press.

How to not fall into manipulative reporting cycle only focusing on the most sensationalist items? There is a limited number of inches in print media, and a limit number of minutes on TV news. But you can still cover everything! 

First, nightly news shows (such as All In with Chris Hayes, TRMS, and The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell) need some coordination. I watched a huge amount of time spent on Trump's Hamilton Tweets across all three shows last night (Monday Nov 21, 2016). But not one of them mentioned other Trump news (such as the $25 million dollar Trump University settlement/tax write-off). There needs to be an editor across all of the news programs that prevents saturation of any particular story. If each show gets to pick what they find most juicy, then we don't hear about everything else. There is a lot going on in the world. Cover more items! And Rachael, some stories do not need 10 minutes. You can often beat that horse dead. 

I think the newspapers can do something similar. Newspapers should form a coalition. They should take turns with different stories. Again, if they all pick the same story, then we end up saturating, and play into Trump's tiny hands. They could even suggest reading other stories in other papers. There is precedent for companies working together in such a fashion: open source software. Open source software (also called "free software" (as in "freedom")) is software that competitors develop together. Newspapers should do some coordination among themselves to spread the stories between them. Of course there is the AP and UPI, but this could be a coordination at the highest level. 

Finally, the Press is important. The Press should cover itself more. I would like to read stories about why certain stories were done, and others not. What are the struggles behind the scene? What is it like attempting to cover someone so blatantly against the norms of our lives as Trump? How do you decide which of the many Trump stories deserve top billing? How are you going to pace yourselves over the next 4 years?

So Press, please organize, and fight back. We are all depending on you.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like the government just needs to step in and manage the press. We'll call it US Pravda, or something like that. I'm sure coordination will inspire more trust in the press, and government management will ensure they present the "correct" news.


Please be kind and respectful. Thanks!