A Lie Too Far?:
by Paul Krugman – N.Y. Times OpEd
I suspect Donald Trump is feeling a bit sandbagged right now, or will be when he wakes up. All along he has treated the news media with contempt, and been rewarded with obsequious deference — his lies sugar-coated, described as “disputed” or “stretching the truth,” while every aspect of his opponent’s life is described as “raising questions” and “casting shadows”, despite lack of evidence that she did anything wrong.
If Greg Sargent and Norm Ornstein are to be believed (and they are!), the cable networks at least initially followed the same pattern in their response to DJT’s latest. But the print media appear to have finally found their voice (which may shape cable coverage over time). The Times and the AP, in particular, have put out hard-hitting stories that present the essence in the lede, not in paragraph 25.
What’s so good about these stories? The fact that they are simple straightforward reporting.
First, confronted with obvious lies, they don’t pretend that the candidate said something less blatant, or do views differ on shape of planet — they simply say that what Trump said is untrue, and that his repetition of these falsehoods makes it clear that he was deliberately lying. Second, the stories for today’s paper are notable for the absence of what I call second-order political reporting: they’re about what Trump said and did, not speculations about how it will play with voters.
Doing these things doesn’t sound very hard — but we’ve seen very little of this kind of thing until now. Why the change? …
One answer might be the storm of criticism over election coverage… And tightening polls probably matter too, not because journalists are being partisan, but because they are now faced with the enormity of what their fact-free jeering of HRC and fawning over DJT might produce.There are now two questions: will this last, and if it does, has the turn come soon enough? In both cases, nobody knows. But just imagine how different this election would look if we’d had this kind of simple, factual, truly balanced (as opposed to both-sides-do-it) reporting all along.
The other possibility is that it was retaliation for trying to “play” the media with a promised news conference on his birtherism that turned into an advertisement for his hotel. I think there’s a … way to explain why the media’s behavior this election is so troubling to liberal intellectuals, and it has less to do with partisan liberal biases or the media’s powers of judgment than with basic anthropological facts about the press itself.
The press is not a pro-democracy trade, it is a pro-media trade. By and large, it doesn’t act as a guardian of civic norms and liberal institutions—except when press freedoms and access itself are at stake. Much like an advocacy group or lobbying firm will reserve value judgments for issues that directly touch upon the things they’re invested in, reporters and media organizations are far more concerned with things like transparency, the treatment of reporters, and first-in-line access to information of public interest, than they are with other forms of democratic accountability. …
The result is the evident skewing of editorial judgment we see in favor of stories where media interests are most at stake: where Clinton gets ceaseless scrutiny for conducting public business on a private email server; Trump gets sustained negative coverage for several weeks when his campaign manager allegedly batters a reporter; where Clinton appears to faint, but the story becomes about when it was appropriate for her to disclose her pneumonia diagnosis…—but where bombshell stories about the ways Trump used other people’s charity dollars for personal enrichment have a hard time breaking through.
News outlets are less alarmed by the idea that Trump might run the government to boost his company’s bottom line, or that he might shred other constitutional rights, because those concerns don’t place press freedoms squarely in crosshairs. …