I thought I saw it coming. I basically predicted it several weeks ago. Now my “union upbringing” provides me with a suggestion on how to combat it. Let’s explore.
At President-elect Trump’s alleged news conference last week he leveled untrue charges at CNN and then refused to take a question from a CNN reporter which would have clarified the situation and allowed the network to defend itself against the unfair and untrue accusations. Trump not only refused to take the question, he called CNN, “Fake news”. CNN was slandered and their reporter silenced. Sounds more like fascism than democracy to me.
This past weekend Trump did an interview with a British publication in which he bragged of his social media following, complained of unfair coverage by the legitimate professional press and strongly hinted he might communicate via it thereby circumventing the press. That is part of what I predicted long ago.
140 characters fit well with Trump’s extremely limited understanding of world affairs and even more limited attention span. The man doesn’t know much and refuses to focus long enough to actually learn anything. Why should he trouble himself with acquiring knowledge when he is perfectly happy living in the Donald Dome of ignorance? Perhaps more importantly Twitter doesn’t ask hard follow-up questions.
The press is having problems adjusting to Trump after eight years of the cerebral Barack Obama. Reporters have to stop asking multipart questions of Trump. While most office holders are smart enough to answer multiple part questions, (even George W. Bush could handle them), Trump simply picks the part he wants to address, spins his answer to a well-rehearsed line and ignores the rest of the question. That is just a tidbit and not my major point of the day.
For profit news media outlets are inherently rivals competing for the same viewers/readers/ listeners. The scoop or the “sexy” story gets the ears, eyeballs and clicks that separate economic success from failure. In the short run if CNN gets effectively frozen out its rivals are the winners. The problem is this is much like discrimination; today’s untouched is tomorrow’s target and eventually we are all victims.
If Trump succeeds in pitting one outlet against the other he will eventually control them all and only he is the winner. The outlets lose and more importantly the people lose in the process. Especially in a democracy, a free press is necessary in order for the public to be informed. It is so important a principle that it is enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States’ Constitution.
Now comes the union lesson. Individual workers are essentially competitors for employment. If they undercut each other wages will free fall and benefits will cease to exist in a race to the bottom. The employer is the winner and the laborers starve. If the workers band together and collectively bargain they all get a living wage that still (very importantly) allows the owner to remain profitable.
The media will have to form an alliance which will walk out if Trump disrespects any member. Simply leave the room mid-event and shut down the pool camera on the way out the door. That will leave Trump with the very limited social media and a few discredited outlets like Breitbart, World Net Daily and Infowars. He may think that is enough but I believe he is mistaken. He will not reach enough people and those sources are viewed with either a grain of salt or outright distrust by most Americans.
The question of the press’ obligation to inform the public is the sticky wicket. Here is my reasoning on that issue. If Trump effectively censors the press by alternately punishing those who speak the truth and rewarding those who ignore it then the press has already lost its credibility and objectivity becoming compromised to the point of being useless.
I feel the press has the “ace in the hole” in this case. Trump lives for and on publicity and needs it in order to maximize his personal financial gain while in office. The legitimate press has the most eyeballs and ears. If you doubt me just look at how many “campaign events” were essentially Trump infomercials.
A free, fair and objective press is more important in the coming four years than it has ever been in certainly my lifetime and probably all of American history. The rivals need to form an alliance in order to save American democracy!
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