When I began this blog just over ten years ago, my goal was to focus on professional issues and events in public relations, marketing and media. I generally stayed away from politics. But that’s changed over the past two years, since the presidential primaries began.
For readers who only want my 2 cents on professional issues, I apologize. But I think current events in politics are impacting media and public relations and, bigger than that, the moral fiber of our great nation. I cannot stay silent in this space. If this bothers you, please close this post now. If not, read on and comment as you see fit.
The circus of a presidential news conference the other day was shocking and troublesome on many fronts. Aside from his rudeness to reporters, his anti-Semitic and racist posturing and his doubling down on his belief in alternative facts about the election results, his approval ratings and his inheriting “a mess,” the ongoing and misplaced attacks on the news media pose a real threat to our democracy.
His claims of fake news are grossly off-base. He even predicted that headlines the day after his news conference would focus on his “ranting and raving.” He was right on that, but if he didn’t want those kind of headlines, then why did he rant and rave? I heard the news conference and “rant and rave” would be an accurate description.
He sounded like a whiny baby, saying the press has treated him “unfairly.” This, coming from a man who behaved like a spoiled child when he mocked his primary opponents, called them silly names and used theatrics to take the focus off the important issues the public wanted to hear the candidates discuss.
Worse yet, his constant portrayal of the news media as “fake news” and now “enemies of the American people” is more than off-base. It’s almost self-servingly treasonous in its attempt to take down a key element in our democratic system of checks and balances.
The White House would like to control the media so only positive information – and often exaggerations and outright lies -- flows out to the American public. This would make it easier for the new administration to fulfill its misguided pledges to dismantle social programs that help so many Americans and, ironically, many who voted for him.
Blocking the flow of accurate news would help the administration put in place rules or programs that will increase the tax burden on the middle and lower class while granting generous tax cuts to the super-wealthy. It will make it easier for the White House to take away agencies and rules that protect consumers from predatory practices by some financial institutions, from shortcuts that can harm us through food we eat and products we use every day, from regulations designed to protect us from ourselves in terms of environmental issues.
Here’s the bottom line as I see it. The news media are not perfect. They make mistakes and they sometimes have a bias. But the vast majority of the hard-news reporting is accurate and truthful. It may not paint a pretty picture of the administration and the president’s actions, but the truth is not always pretty, especially these days in Washington. But we need an honest press to keep a balance on what seems to be an unbalanced White House. If we are accurately informed on what is happening in D.C., we can respond in an informed manner, working to halt actions we fear may be damaging to us and to our great nation’s standing in the eyes of the world.
It’s telling and a bit heartening that even as the president denigrates the media and calls them “failing,” subscriptions and viewing is up significantly for The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major market dailies, as well as for one of the president’s favorite targets, CNN. What we can do as individuals to help the media weather this storm is to buy newspapers and watch the network and cable newscasts.
We need the press now more than ever.