Jamie O is back with some media criticism. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.
Trump’s Lawyer Wrote, Shared Coup Plan – See Page 37 by Jamie O
I hold a degree in journalism/communications. It’s served me pretty well. I have a good job as a science writer for a big university. It’s interesting work, as they say. My degree has also given me sort of an inside-baseball view of how journalists are trained, and to be honest, the training needs to be updated.
I say this because a lot of the DC media is covering politics as if it’s still the 1980s (when I was getting my degree, in fact). You are taught in journalism not to hold bias (or at least control it). You get a quote and information from each side of an issue, and that’s pretty much that. It was simple and good and if one person wouldn’t comment, you’d write “Sen. Reddnose declined to comment.” Then you hit the bar like any worthy hard-nosed journalist as you call it a day.
Problem is, that climate might as well included dinosaurs roaming Capitol Hill, as long ago figuratively that world is compared to this one. Conservatives have bulldozed the unwritten ethics, mores and traditions of American politics that once were the bedrock of our entire political system. For example, as the New York Times’ Ezra Klein has pointed out, Mitch McConnell broke no rule of the Senate when he refused to put Merrick Garland through the confirmation process. But he did break one of those “you can’t do that” sort of rules that our system relied on for decades. Since then, American politics has seen a lot of conservatives crossing a line you weren’t supposed to cross, erasing it, and then drawing a new one, then crossing that. This includes levels of lying that would be considered political death just 10 years ago.
Among the many issues with this is the media hasn’t really adjusted, despite the events of the last six years. The headline style of “Democrats see little risk of inflation but Republicans disagree” from the 1980s has evolved into basically “Experts say the world is round, but some disagree.” It demands a different sort of news coverage, one that acknowledges what exactly is going on, a clarity of the current. The most recent poster child for this is the Eastman Memo.
If you are not familiar with what the Eastman Memo is, It is a memo written by a former Trump lawyer that outlined a six-point plan for former Vice President Mike Pence to basically treat the Constitution like a woman that is not his wife (read: purposely ignore it) and toss the rightful 2020 election results. You can read it here.
This should have been a moment in American history where all DC journos were in a state of hair-on-fire, speaking-in-tongues urgency. After all, this is clear evidence of a president of the United States overseeing a literal coup attempt. Right? Well…as my link showed, CNN certainly covered it. Various columnists, such as the New York Times’ Jamelle Bouie, New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, and the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent covered it. But outside of that, there was limited coverage of the memo in the newspapers, and the network evening news programs ignored it.
It may be tempting to write this all off as no big deal, because they didn’t pull it off, right? On the other hand, it’s not like conservatives are apologetic about January 6. In fact, the GOP has been as suspicious as a teen stoner refusing to let his mom search his room about it. They certainly put enough effort into blocking the Congressional investigations.
This is all alarming because a lot of smart people are sounding alarm bells, including a former Republican, about the growing threat to democracy. Even more alarming, as was shown in this week’s Margaret Sullivan Washington Post column, network news types were pretty much “eh, no big surprise” about the memo. Which brings me back to my college journalism days…I had a professor one time tell us that her answer to people who complained that the media was full of bad news and very little good news was “when bad news is so common it stops being news, we’re in a lot of trouble.”
Are we there now? Apparently, many national news outlets say yes.