As always, it takes me much longer to wrap words around my ideas than it seems to do for others. This post is what I came up with as a response to Fandango’s One Word Challenge from yesterday: Energy. Warning: It is very oriented to current events in the USA and might not be of interest to people from other places.
Background: I’ve been practicing the discipline of staying up to date with current events since I got back from Mount Rainier.
My media blitz continues. Although I don’t know how much longer I can hold out. By Friday, yesterday, I was disgusted; I just looked at the descriptions of shows to get an idea of what they were about and skipped watching the drama. I did watch PBS Newshour.
Reflecting on this week I feel that there is a lot of misplaced energy.
This week’s events:
- At the start of the week almost 600 children at the Mexican border were still not back with their families.
- The Difficult Toddler sent out an almost presidential tweet decrying racism.
- Damp squib white supremist rally in D.C.
- Former aid helped the Toddler overcome the disappointment of his base by coming out and making sure that everyone remembers that he is a racist. For much of the week they had a good old “reality TV” session, entertaining by trading insults.
- A bridge in Italy collapsed killing a lot of people.
- Media coordinated editorial day on first amendment rights.
- Oops: Fox “News” declared that the aid, Omarosa, had “won”. So the administration pulled out a back dated memo taking away former CIA chief’s security clearance because he knows the truth about Russia, thinks the reality TV type crap isn’t presidential, and had the kahunas to say it. (Not surprising he had the kahunas since he was instrumental in taking down bin Laden.)
- Very brief mentions of serious questions about the Supreme Court nominee and that Republicans are blocking access to documents that are relevant to his qualifications. It seems that he lied during his confirmation hearings for his current judgeship and holds the checks and balances system, an essential part of our constitution, in disdain.
- The Manafort trial continued and we heard a lot of speculation and inuendo about what various minutia might mean.
- At the end of the week, last night, almost 600 children at the Mexican border are still not back with their families.
Here is what I draw from the past week:
First: I am beginning to wonder how free the “free press” is. While I am far from believing the press is “enemy of the people”, I do think it could do much, much better at not allowing the administration to set the agenda and distract us from important issues. At this time, I consider the following to be the most important issues this week: the children separated from their families, the Supreme Court judgeship, the state of election security, and some research into the state of US infrastructure. These issues got very little press coverage over the course of the week.
Second: A lot of energy went into the damp squib (I borrowed that phrase from The Economist) white supremist rally in DC. It felt almost like the press wanted something exciting (always bad in a situation like this) to happen. In my view the massive amount of coverage gives legitimacy to a movement that should have none.
Third: The Difficult Toddler being a racist isn’t news. The Omarosa stuff belonged in a gossip column, not on supposedly serious news programs.
Fourth: It is inappropriate, and a bit absurd, to spend so much time speculating about details of the Manafort Trial. When there actually is news, report it. But Manafort staring stoically at Gates during testimony and the jury asking a few standard questions is not news. Stick with the content of the testimony and do not conjecture about what it might mean. This kind of reporting can potentially lead to a mistrial. One of the concepts that sets the USA apart, for now anyway, is that people are assumed innocent until proven guilty. Keeping the integrity of our judicial system intact is very important and we all should do what we can to help, including refraining from conjecture.
Last, but certainly not least, if the press is going to coordinate efforts I don’t think editorials are the way to go. Do it by demonstrating the value of a free press. A few examples that might serve our nation:
- At White House press briefings make sure that someone always asks for a progress report on reuniting families, no matter what the topic of the day is. All media venues should play the response. You needn’t analyze it every time. Just make sure the question is asked and the response played, every day.
- Parenting 101: Don’t let bad behavior like removing Brennen’s clearance or overt racism get much attention. It creates positive reinforcement for bad behavior. It also demeans the media.
- Focus on issues instead of personality. Try to spend a week without using the president’s name. Just report factually on issues and events.
- How about dedicating a themed news day to a specific subject, for example, the plight of the children. Explore it in depth: how the situation arose, what is being done to reunite the families, and what is or isn’t being done to prevent such a situation in the future. Yes, a lot of reporting has been done, but it’s here and there. Yes, it would be a bit repetitive, but not more so than Omarosa and the Difficult Toddler trading insults followed by a string of people sounding off that he is racist, or trying to speculate what it might mean that the judge looked at his notes during the Manafort trial. Other possible topic for a themed news day might be our election systems or the Supreme Court.
The Difficult Toddler demeans the press, but the press also demeans itself by taking the offered bait whole heartedly. We also have responsibility. Ratings rule: don’t watch garbage. Some shows are good on some nights and not on others: turn them off when they stray into innuendo and gossip instead of solid information.