It’s time for the press to suspend normal relations with the Trump presidency

Jay Rosen writes:

It sometimes happens in diplomacy that one country has to say to another: “This is extreme. We cannot accept this. You have gone too far.” And so it suspends diplomatic relations.

In 2012 the government of Canada announced that it would suspend diplomatic relations with Iran. “Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today,” said the foreign minister.

Journalists charged with covering him should suspend normal relations with the presidency of Donald Trump, which is the most significant live threat to a well-informed public in the United States today.

That is my recommendation. [Continue reading…]

Dear journalists: Stop being loudspeakers for liars

Dan Gillmor writes:

An open letter to my friends and colleagues in journalism:

Please, just stop.

Please stop giving live airtime to liars. Stop publishing their lies.

Please examine what you’re doing. You are letting liars use your traditional norms — which made sense in different times and situations — to turn you into amplifiers of deceit. You know you are doing this, and sometimes you even defend it.

Please stop.

But but but but, you say, he’s the president and we have to publish what he says, because by definition what the president says is news. We have to put Kellyanne Conway on our programs, and quote her in our tweets and stories, because she has the president’s ear and knows what’s going on inside the White House.

No, you don’t. And what’s more, you shouldn’t. [Continue reading…]

The press needs to sandwich Trump’s lies between thick slices of reality

Margaret Sullivan writes:

Last week was a particularly rough one for journalists and truth-seeking citizens.

President Trump declared the news media the nation’s worst enemy. And time after shocking time, his acolytes demeaned or threatened reporters for doing one of their most basic jobs: asking questions of those in power.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a reporter in North Korea that it was “insulting and ridiculous and ludicrous” for him to be asked about details of the verification process for the vaunted denuclearization.

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale suggested taking a CNN reporter’s credentials away after he shouted a question at the president.

It was ugly. Even uglier than usual.

And the president’s anti-media campaign is convincing at least some citizens that journalists have no worth.

Enter George Lakoff. An author, cognitive scientist and linguist who has long studied how propaganda works, he believes it’s long past time for the reality-based news media to stop kowtowing to the emperor.

“Trump needs the media, and the media help him by repeating what he says,” Lakoff said.

That would be okay under normal circumstances, he told me, but “this situation is not normal — you have a sustained attack on the democracy and the news media.”

Unlike those who insist that what the president says is news and therefore must be reported, Lakoff proposes a radical reimagining of how the news media reports on Trump.

Instead of treating the president’s every tweet and utterance — true or false — as newsworthy (and then perhaps fact-checking it later), Lakoff urges the use of what he calls a “truth sandwich.” [Continue reading…]

Puerto Rico’s devastation takes a backseat to Roseanne coverage

Pete Vernon writes:

For those who argue that the media has misplaced priorities when it comes to coverage choices, this week has provided a case study to support their position. While media outlets from cable news to digital publishers obsessed over the cancellation of ABC’s Roseanne, a report on the staggering death toll in Puerto Rico has, in comparison, been met with relative silence.

Researchers from Harvard University estimate that at least 4,645 deaths can be linked to Hurricane Maria and its immediate aftermath, more than 70 times the official count of 64. The Washington Post’s Arelis R. Hernández and Laurie McGinley write that “the island’s slow recovery has been marked by a persistent lack of water, a faltering power grid and a lack of essential services—all imperiling the lives of many residents, especially the infirm and those in remote areas hardest hit in September.”

The Harvard study has a wide margin of error, but even at the low end of its range, the death count from Maria would place the disaster on par with the devastation wrought by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. The news received coverage from numerous outlets, but it was swamped by the firestorm surrounding the cancellation of a sitcom. [Continue reading…]

The Onion’s brutal Israel commentary goes beyond satire

Vice News reports:

On Monday, as the United States celebrated moving its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thousands of Palestinian protesters were shot by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at the border fence separating Israel and Gaza. At least 60 Palestinians died as a result, and the seemingly never-ending conflict between Israel and Palestine was once again at the top of the international news. On May 16, the front page of the New York Times displayed a poignant image of the Gaza landscape, the sky a striking yellow with blue smoke surrounding the border fence. Beneath, the headline read, “Israelis Reflect: ‘I Hope at Least That Each Bullet Was Justified.’”

Supporters of Palestinians were outraged. “Even as #Palestinians are massacred NYTimes finds a way to humanize the #Israelis,” James J. Zogby, the founder of the Arab American Institute, wrote on Twitter. “Completely disgusting,” commented Jacobin’s Alex Press. “The NYT soft on the criminal Israeli shooters and has no heart for Palestinian victims in Gaza,” another Twitter user remarked.

Meanwhile, on The Onion, the nation’s other paper of record, this was the headline:

“IDF Soldier Recounts Harrowing, Heroic War Story Of Killing 8-Month-Old Child.”

This was a shockingly brutal joke, but it fits with the satirical website’s tone when it comes to Israel. In April, The Onion published “Teen On Birthright Trip Hadn’t Expected To See So Many Dead Palestinians.” On May 10, as the conflict between Israel and Iran heated up, the paper wrote a story headlined “Netanyahu Begins Calling For Israeli Return To Ancient Homeland Of Iran,” presumably a follow up to its May 1 article, “Netanyahu Provides Stunning New Evidence That Iranians Planned Sacking Of Babylon In 539 B.C.” [Continue reading…]

The fake news Russians hear at home

Anne Applebaum writes:

Because it touches us, because it involves the U.S. president, and because it has produced a lot of headlines, the strategy and tactics of Russian government disinformation in the West have lately been big news. Because it’s far away, and because it happens in a different language, we’ve thought a lot less about Russian government propaganda in Russia. But it will eventually matter to us — maybe sooner than we think.

The transformation of Russian media hasn’t happened overnight. Back in 2010, the Internet in Russia was a relatively vibrant place, where people with different kinds of ideas argued things out, at least some of the time. Independent media had some traction, and independent voices were heard. There were negative stories about the Western world, but positive ones, too. Eight years later — following Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency, and a sharp change in government information policy — the situation is different.

This isn’t because Russia has become the Soviet Union, or a totalitarian state with one newspaper. Russia now has multiple sources of information: different television channels, many with high-quality entertainment programs; a range of newspapers, some very professional; both highbrow and lowbrow magazines and websites. But the appearance of variety is deceptive. Though the styles are very different, the vast majority of media is owned by the state or state-linked companies, and the stories are often remarkably alike. On television, which is where most Russians get their news, much of what they see about the West is overwhelmingly dark and negative. [Continue reading…]

The deep roots of Trump’s war on the press

Tim Alberta writes:

You couldn’t miss it. Arriving in Cleveland for the 2016 Republican National Convention, visitors found themselves staring at an enormous white billboard, slapped across the top of a tall concrete building in the city’s bustling downtown, screaming a simple directive: “DON’T BELIEVE THE LIBERAL MEDIA!”

The signage—black letters against a white backdrop, save for “LIBERAL MEDIA” in bloody red—was ample around town the week of Donald Trump’s coronation in Cleveland. It was carried on top of taxicabs; projected with lights onto a sleepy city building; and held on posters behind live cable news broadcasts throughout the week. The message paired splendidly with Trump’s remarks in accepting the GOP nomination. “Remember, all of the people telling you that you can’t have the country you want are the same people telling you that I wouldn’t be standing here tonight,” he said. “No longer can we rely on those elites in media and politics who will say anything to keep a rigged system in place.”

But the displays in downtown Cleveland weren’t paid for by Trump’s campaign, or the Republican National Committee, or an affiliated super PAC. They were a victory lap of sorts for conservative activist Brent Bozell and his advocacy group, the Media Research Center—one of the most active and best-funded, and yet least known, arms of the modern conservative movement. It was as if the billboard was announcing that the right’s decadeslong jihad against the mainstream press had reach its apogee in Trump, a candidate who made vicious rhetorical attacks on journalists a staple of his raucous campaign events, railed about the “crooked” and “lying media” in nearly every debate, and even went after individual reporters by name.

It remains something of a myth that Vietnam and Watergate shattered Americans’ innocence and launched an era of institutional mistrust. As of 1986, Gallup was finding that 65 percent of Americans still felt a “great deal” or “fair amount” of confidence in the press. The next year, inside a rickety townhouse in Alexandria, Virginia, the Media Research Center—or MRC—was born. Its mission was simple: Highlight examples of alleged bias from the nation’s major news organizations and hold them accountable. Bozell, born into right-wing royalty—the nephew of National Review founder William F. Buckley, and son of Brent Bozell Jr., Barry Goldwater’s speechwriter and the ghost-writer of his book, Conscience of a Conservative—had not yet distinguished himself in the conservative movement. That would soon change. Over the ensuing decades, with the assistance of tens of millions of dollars from prominent Republican donors, the MRC moved to the front lines of America’s culture wars, relentlessly assailing what it viewed as a godless, condescending, out-of-touch national media—and systematically chipping away at its credibility in the minds of voters. The results were manifest: 30 years after that 1986 survey, as Trump steamrolled his way into the White House, Gallup released new numbers showing confidence in the press at all-time low of 32 percent. Among Republicans, it was just 14 percent. [Continue reading…]

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U.S. falls to 45th on press freedom index, Trump labeled ‘media-bashing enthusiast’

The Hill reports:

Reporters Without Borders has dropped the United States to No. 45 in its annual ranking of press freedom for 180 countries around the world.

In the report released Wednesday, the United States received a “fairly good” rating, which falls below the category of “good,” in which only 9 percent of countries rated were placed.

The ranking continues a downward trend for the U.S. in recent years. The country finished No. 43 in 2017 and No. 41 in 2016. [Continue reading…]

The Independent reports:

The UK is one of the worst countries in western Europe for press freedom because of new media-muzzling laws and a climate of hostility towards journalists, a new report has found.

The country ranked 40 out of 180 in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, a report compiled by influential non-profit organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF). It dropped to that position last year.

The position marks a “staggering” decline for the UK of 18 places since the index began in 2002, RSF said. [Continue reading…]

She tried to report on climate change but Sinclair told her to be more ‘balanced’

BuzzFeed reports:

Sinclair Broadcast Group executives reprimanded and ultimately ousted a local news reporter who refused to seed doubt about man-made climate change and “balance” her stories in a more conservative direction.

Her account, detailed in company documents she provided to BuzzFeed News, offers a glimpse at the inner workings of a media giant that has sought to both ingratiate itself to President Donald Trump and cast itself as an apolitical local news provider — a position the documents undermine.

In one 2015 instance, the former news director of WSET-TV in Lynchburg, Virginia, Len Stevens, criticized reporter Suri Crowe because she “clearly laid out the argument that human activities cause global warming, but had nothing from the side that questions the science behind such claims and points to more natural causes for such warming.”

In recent months, Sinclair has garnered intense national attention for forcing stations across the country to carry pro-Trump “must run” segments and instructing anchors to read statements touting conservative talking points. Sinclair, which owns local TV stations “affiliated” with name-brand networks like Fox or ABC, has defended the segments and noted they are a small part of its stations’ overall coverage — but Crowe’s experience as a general assignment reporter demonstrates how the parent company’s ideology can permeate throughout local news reporting. [Continue reading…]

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Journalist who exposed Russia’s secret mercenaries in Syria mysteriously fell to his death

Vice News reports:

In February, Russian investigative journalist Maxim Borodin published a series of bombshell reports about the secret, substantial presence of Russian mercenary forces in Syria. On Sunday, he died, following a mysterious fall from his fifth-floor balcony.

Now, a journalists’ advocacy group is calling for an investigation into his “suspicious” death — even though his own editor-in-chief has said there’s not yet any hard evidence of foul play.

Local police said they’re investigating “several versions” of the death of Borodin, 32, who worked for an outlet called Novy Den in the city of Yekaterinburg. The cops said in a statement they “haven’t ruled out that it was an accident.”

“All hypotheses should be considered, including the possibility that he was murdered in connection with his investigative reporting,” Reporters Without Borders said in a press release Monday.

Borodin had helped shed light on Russia’s “shadow army,” the thousands of Russian military contractors secretly fighting on the side of President Bashar Assad in Syria. [Continue reading…]

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