The decision made by CNN to not run President Trump’s press conference live last night, but on a delay, is part of a larger trend of major media outlets declaring publicly to oppose the president at all costs. Despite CNN White House correspondent John Harwood's saying “[T]his is the most effective job of communicating President Trump has done during this crisis,” the media attempted-blackout of the president raises serious concerns.
If your news organization is protesting the President of the United States, you are an activist group; this is not journalism. CNN offered a protest in refusing to air Trump's press conference live, betraying both the public and journlistic integrity.
Several days ago, as reported in The Post Millennial by Ari Hoffman, White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere stated “It’s not surprising, but also a failure of their duty to the American people, that some media outlets would choose to block their audiences from receiving accurate, up-to-date information on President Trump’s whole-of-government approach to slowing the spread of COVID-19. No other Administration has been as transparent and as accessible as this one, and we will continue to make sure this Nation hears from its leaders and top health experts during this global pandemic.”
He is correct, as the duty of the press is to inform the public. But more than that, as journalists openly declare their personal and professional protest of the president, they cease being journalists at all. Using a platform to silence the voice of national leaders in a time of crisis, simply because you personally or collectively disagree with him, is not journalism in the least.
Maggie Haberman, White House Correspondent for the New York Times and CNN analyst, demonstrated this in her response to criticism of her selectively editing a quote by President Trump, “Because in journalism, sometimes we paraphrase the rest. I said he was talking about criticism of the federal response, not him. The rest of the quote was about the federal response.”
The media’s lack of self-awareness and need to quickly justify their own behavior proves an impenetrable bubble. The job of a journalist, it should be easily understood, is not to ‘paraphrase’ when a direct quote is available. The job of a journalist should not be to edit for content at all.
The problem is not one of semantics either, back in 2016 CNN’s Chris Cillizza tweeted, “Let me say for the billionth time: Reporters don't root for a side. Period.”
It is one of culture and elitism in what has become an insular class that views itself above criticism and ethics. They seem to genuinely believe their actions are self-validating because of the perceived nobility of their profession. Demonstrated by S.E. Cupp in a recent tweet, “When Trump attacks the media, he wants you to hate people like me. I’m fine with that. But the 'media' is also thousands of reporters on the frontlines of THIS crisis and others, in war zones, refugee crises, genocides, and now COVID. Please don’t take your politics out on them.”
When it comes down to it, from the executive staff of major news networks and down the line, journalists views themselves as responsible for interpreting and presenting the world as they see it.
Repeatedly we see those who are given the responsibility of reporting the news abuse their positions of authority to pursue ideological means. They are activists and it is time they be treated as such. Of course, as Mollie Hemmingway illustrated in a The Federalist, there is no singular authority or system in place to incentivize ethical behavior in journalism. The institutions themselves that credential journalist through degree programs are run by ideological activists.
Quick to block any and all criticism on Twitter, free to spread false narratives and manipulated stories with selectively edited quotes, to outright deception, the journalism class is populated by people with incredible influence and power over both the national conversation and the historical record, who feel themselves entitled to pursue political and social justice campaigns without question or restriction. This would all be fine if they were not given the automatic authority of presenting the truth to the American public.
The relevant distinction in all of this is the term ‘journalist.’ Journalists are given special privileges in our society. They have access to important people and events and their reporting is used as the basis for understanding and remembering world events.
When the most influential voices in journalism are vocal activists for a specific worldview, the very legitimacy of the historical record is compromised. While editorial and opinion writers are valuable to the political conversation, the reliance on an accurate and unbiased reporting of events is essential and necessary. The current world of journalism is denying us this foundation.
Journalists seem to view their privilege as one of pure influence. They can shape the national conversation and personally direct the way in which stories are perceived, what is reported and what is not and how the individuals involved are remembered. But in truth, journalism is a profession of sacrifice. A person is tasked with suppressing their own interests to report what actually happened, without the influence of politics or social worldview.
This is supposed to give us solid ground to stand on, comment on and reflect on in the future. This is the responsibility of the journalist. Unfortunately, this sacrifice is self-motivated, with only one’s reputation for accuracy in the balance. Journalists simply do not care about this any longer. They wish to be remembered as the voice of a movement instead.
CNN and any other news organization should be professional enough to understand that despite the personal distaste the majority of its staff have for the President, their role is to air his press conferences without interruption and then allow their editorial staff to comment on it. If they continue attempting to intervene through protest as they are, their protections, official credentials, authority and access as news organizations should be stripped from them.
There are a million advocacy organizations, but news is rare. In defying their own responsibility to accurately report what is happening in the country, they are letting down the American people, and undermining the trust they have placed in the media. If they value their responsibility at all, they should think twice before continuing down this path.