I doubt the media and the American public will ever see eye to eye on what journalists do and why they do it. The Pew Research Center just released results of a national survey into what the public makes of the Trump-media relationship. Most Americans think it’s unhealthy. I don’t think that would have been my answer.
Here’s the question Pew posed: “Which of the following statements comes closest to your view, even if neither is exactly right?”
And here are the statements:
Despite current tensions, the relationship between the Trump administration and the U.S. news media is generally HEALTHY
Current tensions have made the relationship between Trump administration and the U.S. news media generally UNHEALTHY
I bet you’re not surprised to learn that 83 percent of the 4,100-plus people who responded chose unhealthy. But Pew asked about unhealthy without specifying what unhealthy is. Is a healthy relationship between two baseball teams one in which everybody goes out to dinner and nobody plays the game?
Let me put it another way: Would you call the relationship between a parent and a tantrum-throwing two-year-old healthy if the parent acted as the kid’s enabler? Let me suggest that because of current tensions, the relationship between the White House and the media is healthy. In the best of circumstances, reporters and politicians are antagonists. In the present case, reporters don’t believe anything Trump and his acolytes tell them, and well they shouldn’t.
Instead, they call him a liar and publish editorials that say he’s unfit for office. They could take it all back. Yet I don’t think that if they did the nation would bound into a brighter future.
There was a second question posed: “Would you say that these tensions . . . are getting in the way or not getting in the way of Americans’ access to important national political news and information?”
And 73 percent of the people polled said yes, they are getting in the way.
But what’s the most important political news these days? It can be argued that the media’s paid too little attention to the quieter manipulations of the Trump White House, including to the executive orders that auction off our environment and our privacy to the highest bidders. But it’s the mendacity and incompetence of Trump and his people that is the bigger story. When the media call him out, they’re telling the public what the public needs to know.
Would the public feel better about the health of the Trump-media relationship if they got along as chummily as Trump and Putin?
The president of China can come to America and feign amity he doesn’t feel. That’s his job, not journalists’. The unhealthiness the American public thinks it’s suffering from tells me the media’s vital signs are in pretty good order.