As a frequent critic of just about everything, I cannot help but wonder how the next four years are going to play out. There are times when I take in the daily news that I feel I have slipped into the “crotchety old man” phase of my life. It is only a matter of time before I walk out my front door, robe open, boxer shorts exposed, and screaming “you kids get off my lawn.” Watching the President-elect’s press conference on January 11, 2017 only seems to move me closer to that stage in my life, with a slight variation. Instead of just yelling at kids on my lawn, I would be yelling at almost everyone involved in this spectacle some would call a Presidential press conference.
I am not a subtle critic of the media or politicians, and contrary to what some of you might believe, I can be even-handed in my condemnation. Watching this press conference, and taking in all of the observations shared by so many people was like watching the televised equivalent of “ripping the band aid” off a wound. It was painful, and left me with the feeling that there were many people in that room unprepared to handle what troubles America.
As I have stated in the past the media needs an ethical and intellectual resurgence. The resistance to a Trump presidency cannot be the only catalyst for that potential press rebirth. If Trump is the only reason that some in the press are now aggressively pursuing the facts, it would only serve to compound that which is afflicting the press. To aggressively cover Trump without discipline, guided by innuendo and having learned nothing from these past 2 years, will only erode the trust people should have in the press. Those that are part of the press need to bring their “A” game every day, especially when covering our government. However, the sad reality is that the press should have always been at its top form, something they have not been over the past several years. Those in the press need to be “dotting every I, and crossing every T,” and maybe, just maybe they will crawl out of the pit of distrust they have fallen into. That did not happen at the January 11 press conference. Trump dominated the press from the very start of the conference because the press was not ready.
First out of the gate was Trump’s confrontation with CNN reporter Jim Acosta. Acosta took offense with Trump’s description that CNN was “fake news.” The “fake news” label stemmed from what Trump believed was the mishandling of items contained within an intelligence briefing regarding unsubstantiated salacious details about Trump (I will address this report later in the article). Acosta continually tried to interrupt Trump, even after Trump repeatedly told Acosta to stop. Acosta was right to attempt to ask Trump a question, but once he was shut down, he should have stopped. The media has in the past chastised reporters for their “breach of etiquette” when confronting Obama (http://tinyurl.com/dcMunro), yet seem to give Acosta a pass.
Acosta is a good reporter, yet he took a beating in front of the rest of the press corps (and the world for that matter), and his colleagues did nothing. If the press corps was displeased with the tone, and the attack on one of their own, they should have gotten up and walked out. Instead, they complained about the incident after they left the conference. Welcome to a “world turned upside down.” Standing before us is the wrecking ball Americans wanted, and on January 11, that wrecking ball reduced many in the US press corps to rubble. As a member of the press, you need to walk into a press conference supported by facts, and committed to your ordained charge as defined by the 1st Amendment. On January 11, the general assessment is that the press failed. Score one point for Trump.
Now to the story that led to the Trump-Acosta confrontation. None of us should like unsubstantiated stories, yet none of us should be surprised when these stories rear their ugly head. There were just as many idiotic stories spread about Obama, some by the same people screaming foul about this “leaked dossier” on Trump. This was not the first time a story of this type will pop up, these types of stories have existed since the beginning of time. The press corps that ran with this story owns their actions. Buzz Feed is part of the “new media,” quick in delivery, short on journalistic discipline. Buzz Feed’s actions related to this story has once again tainted the entire press corps, regardless of whether a particular news entity ran with the story or not. In the public’s eyes, the failure by one is a failure by all. To run this story in the manner in which they did, and then for CNN not to frame it correctly, only helps to embolden Trump.
However, there are legitimate questions regarding the dossier. What should have been done with the story? Granted it was scandalous, but it concerned the future President of the United States. The “dossier” made its way through seemingly reliable channels, which should have been safeguarded. The information was delivered to Senator McCain. What was he supposed to do with it? Whether or not you like McCain, should he have put it the shredder, or just simply ignored it? How would Trump respond if he found out this dossier existed, that some Senators, the media, and the intelligence community knew of its existence, and yet did not inform him? How did this information, contained in a top-secret intelligence briefing ever see the light of day? If this were about Obama, and not Trump, would it have been handled differently by everyone involved (the press, those who support or oppose either person)?
The “crotchety old man” in me just wanted to start yelling, or better still, take out my garden hose and spray everyone involved with the January 11 press conference with cold water. If this is how the next four years is going to play out, our country will suffer. Let’s hope that people will come to their senses, preferably sooner rather than later.