As we approach the midterms, the biggest obstacle in the way of democracy being upheld is the real rule of journalism — tell the actual, f*cking truth.
A nifty, right-on piece directed at the root matter of journalism, which I originally missed/overlooked with all the other shit filling the in-box of the nowadays (h/t tweet Daily Kos):
I don’t think I’ve read a better summary of what US political journalists should be doing that also makes clear what a terrible job they’re doing now. By Dan @froomkin in @thenation https://t.co/fW74bz9LHj pic.twitter.com/mH9xOdZ3XH
— Will of the Northern Loons ??????? (@WMRine) May 17, 2022
Dan Froomkin, longtime media-watchdog observer/writer, looks at journalism’s job right now through the lens of The New York Times, not only with the ‘both-sides-do-it‘ bullshit but reporting the actual truth and fact of what the Republican party has become and its horrid influence on the upcoming midterms.
Some highlights from Froomkin’s piece at The Nation (last Friday):
When the current editor, Dean Baquet, took over the top job in 2014, American politics still worked more or less by the same rules that had applied for decades: The two rival parties largely agreed on the facts; they just interpreted them very differently.
Enter Donald Trump, on a wave of ignorance, disinformation, and white grievance, taking the Republican Party to what had been considered an extremist fringe of alternate facts and conspiracy theories.
The differences between the parties were no longer about policy; they were about truth and lies.
Then Trump and his loyalists tried to steal an election. The danger to democracy was no longer abstract. The Republican Party aligned itself against the concept of universal suffrage and the principle of majority rule.
Baquet did not rise to this challenge. He treated the divisions about basic facts and democratic rule as just so much partisan squabbling. During the 2016 campaign, in the name of balance, his staff savaged Hillary Clinton and went easy on Donald Trump.
He stuck to the old political-journalism algorithms even as they stopped producing anything approximating the truth and instead privileged lies and normalized the abnormal.
He ignored and belittled his critics. He failed to see that his news organization, which sets the standard for the American journalism community, had lost the plot.
And there’s no time to lose. The midterm elections, which could be a pivotal step toward authoritarian rule and a failed state, are fast approaching.
Under Baquet, the Times has treated the upcoming midterms like any other. Reporters have glibly asserted that Republicans are in great shape to sweep, and win back a majority in one or both houses of Congress.
They have unquestioningly adopted the conventional political wisdom that midterms are a referendum on the president, and since Biden is underwater, it doesn’t matter what the Republicans stand for.
But that’s not what these midterms will actually be about. They won’t be about Joe Biden, or putting a “check” on his agenda. They won’t be a “protest vote”.
It’s not just that the GOP has become an insurrectionist party that traffics in hate-filled conspiracy theories and lies. Now the Supreme Court has evidently decided to repeal Roe v. Wade, and Republicans are planning to force pregnant women to term against their will.
For decades, the history of America has been of expanding human and constitutional rights. At this moment, however, we appear to be headed the other way — unless a supermajority says no at the ballot box. Starting in November.
That’s the real story of the midterms.
The goal of a responsible news organization is not to get people to vote a specific way. But it is to make sure that everyone understands what’s at stake.
Another major element of the critique is that the Times hasn’t recognized its obligation to fight disinformation by championing the truth as assertively as right-wing media spreads lies.
That doesn’t mean acting “in opposition” to Trump or the GOP. But it certainly means being “in opposition” to misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda — and to its purveyors.
It doesn’t mean more “fact-checks” (which are insufficient, euphemistic, and skewed). It means rigorous lie-outing in the main news stories, and more stories about the motives behind the lies.
The Times does sometimes point out that large chunks of the population are laboring under serious misconceptions about facts, or have tuned out from news altogether. But reporters and editors should consider that a major problem to analyze and solve rather than an occasion to gawk at people talking nonsense.
And good journalism tips/points not just for the Times, but all media. Froomkin also writes/edits Press Watch.
We’re in a way-perilous state right now with a shitload worth of the future at stake — not just America continuing as America has the last 250-plus years or so, but bad shit like climate change will be washed away via extinction.
In a soothing flashback to the old days, when some journalists carried quick, truthful rejoinders:
Despite the warning, once again here we are…
(Illustration out front found here).