To someone who has spent most of his career in the news business, it’s distressing to confront the current state of the media. Rather than a source of information and varied opinion, the media increasingly act not so such as disseminators of information but as a privileged and separate caste, determined to shape opinion to a certain set of conclusions.
When you pick up a great newspaper like the New York Times, it is sometimes shocking how openly partisan the coverage tends to be. For example, when President Donald Trump unveiled his new tax plan, the headline was not about the proposal per se, but rather how it would serve the wealthy. This may indeed be the case, but such an approach would traditionally be the role of the editorial pages — not the Page 1 headline writers.
This approach oddly actually plays exactly into the president’s hands at a time when, according to a September Gallup poll, confidence in the media stands at a historic low of 32 percent, down from 55 percent in 1999. Even if they don’t like Trump, most Americans are turned off by the relentless negativity.
The unique challenge of Trump
Alienating customers is not good business, especially for an industry that has seen close to 40 percent of its jobs disappear over the past 20 years. Some of the problems, of course, reflect other issues, most notably the rise of online media and the fact that barely 5 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 get their news from print newspapers. Cable and network news are not doing much better; their audience, notes a March 2014 Pew Research Center report, is now smaller than it was in 2007.
The public’s growing disdain allows Trump to give the media a “big, fat, failing grade” as one of his essential talking points. His no-show at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner plays well with a large part of the population that feels alienated from the mainstream media.
Conservatives have long railed against media bias. But under Ronald Reagan, media…