Hamilton: Death of journalism, murder or suicide?
January 19, 2017
Whatever happened to old-fashioned journalism when every possible news item had to be verified by two independent sources? Whatever happened to newspaper editors and TV producers who avoided libel and slander lawsuits by taking care to only publish or air documentable proof? And whatever happened to editors and producers who, when dealing with stories about celebrities, knew they best guard against showing any form of "malice" lest their "victim" smite back at them in court?
Recall, the 1981 movie "Absence of Malice," starring Paul Newman. Newman's point was that "malice," an essential element of proof, is very difficult for the victim of a spurious news story to prove in court. By the same token, celebrities and public figures should always strive, not only to avoid evil, but to avoid the appearance of evil. But then, if all men and women were angels, the so-called main-stream media (MSM) would go out of business.
Over the last 18 months, the appearance of Donald J. Trump on the political scene has provoked the left-leaning MSM into a volcano of "malice" dumped on Mr. Trump to which Mr. Trump has replied with equal "malice." In this former newspaper editor's, and now opinion writer's, 33 years in journalism, I have never seen the MSM so blatantly united in trying to destroy the reputation of one individual while, at the same time, turning an almost blind eye to the legal and ethical problems surrounding Mr. Trump's former opponent.
A case in point is the ridiculous fake news about Mr. Trump during a 2013 trip to Moscow. Whoever made up the story needs to seek some serious mental help and anyone who publishes such drivel should seek help as well. But that did not stop NBC's Buzzfeed from publishing obvious garbage. Nor did it stop CNN and Wolf Blitzer from treating the Buzzfeed excrement as if it were from intelligence sources, i.e., a real news story.
Mr. Trump, during his first news conference as president-elect, not only set the record straight, he punished CNN for treating the fake story as real news by refusing to accept a question from the CNN reporter. Granted, a counterattack on CNN poses little risk for Mr. Trump because CNN's American audience is relatively small, consisting mainly of the Left's collection of racial minorities, the LGBT crowd, Woodstock-wannabes, and liberal-arts types. While CNN International is important overseas, CNN America is only a cable news operation that appears in airline terminals, some bars, and in the relatively small number of homes willing to pay for cable or satellite news.
While conservatives like to think the Fox News Channel reaches a big audience and CNN and MSNBC also think they matter, the truth is much different. According to Nielsen Media Research, "Far more people watch the three network evening newscasts than prime time cable news shows— roughly ten times more." So, if a story is not reported by ABC-, CBS-, or NBC-News, most American viewers will not learn about it.
Unfortunately, the disgrace of NBC's Buzzfeed and CNN paints what remains of the "ethical" media with the same excrement-smeared brush. Ergo: President Trump is likely to survive the MSM. But will the MSM survive President Trump?