Many reporters and editors simply take it as a given that Trump’s a crook. So stories about Trump’s corruption amount to what journalists call dog bites man stories – not really news because it’s the norm and wholly expected. The second related point is that many reporters and editors at a basic level don’t take Trump seriously as a real candidate. Journalists only probed so far into Ben Carson’s various multi-level marketing scams and churning through millions of dollars of small donor contributions to enrich consultants because Ben Carson was clearly never going to be president.
At some level, this is all true: Trump isn’t a real or a serious candidate by numerous measures. Except one measure that is the only meaningful one: he is the Republican nominee for President and even though polls suggest it’s unlikely he’ll be elected President there’s a very real chance he’ll become the US head of state and commander-in-chief of the US armed forces next January. So by the single test that really matters, Trump is as real as a candidate can be.
If reports about a candidate talk about how something “raises questions,” creates “shadows,” or anything similar, be aware that these are all too often weasel words used to create the impression of wrongdoing out of thin air.
And here’s a pro tip: the best ways to judge a candidate’s character are to look at what he or she has actually done, and what policies he or she is proposing. Mr. Trump’s record of bilking students, stiffing contractors and more is a good indicator of how he’d act as president; Mrs. Clinton’s speaking style and body language aren’t.
This is a close a cousin as exists in nature to what I call rationing your give-a-shit, where reporters can’t get themselves excited about something they think they know. It’s the shorthand, the boilerplate that gets inserted into every story by everybody, the graf about how things are, just so that we can say we said it.
So you get this thing where news reporters view as unserious anyone who wonders why you need to play a politician’s yell into a microphone over and over, or give known airtime to a bunch of Nixon bagmen who are telling lies about Vietnam. You get this attitude that if you expect news coverage to afflict the powerful and side with the powerless you are naive or an activist or the worst thing imaginable: Both.
You get reporters tittering over political corruption, giving corrupt politicos a pass because everyone knows that’s just how they are. You get “early and often” jokes, on the fucking news, like that’s supposed to be funny to anyone but the ruling class. You get a depth of knowledge of Clinton scandals that borders on encyclopedic and if you dare breathe a negative word about George W. Bush, America’s stoner roommate, you’re just some kind of humorless scold.
How do you even GET to political bias when all this shit is in the way?