When President Donald Trump’s charged that the mainstream media put the "lives of many" at risk with its irresponsible reporting, New York Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger himself retorted that this rhetoric was "harmful to the country" and actually put journalistic lives at risk.
Sulzberger’s claim was backed by Washington Post columnist Rick Noack, using evidence from a study by the European Center for Press and Media Freedom.
That media-supported 2017 study looked back to the 2014 European "refugee crisis" and the response of the anti-immigration German Pegida movement’s weekly rallies in the city of Dresden chanting the words "lying press" after which it claimed "tensions escalated."
In Leipzig a "female reporter" was "struck in the face."
Reporters across the German state of Saxony claimed to be unable even to walk with notebooks for fear of negative reaction. Journalists were said to have been assaulted "at least 20 times" in 2015, which incidences were traced to remarks by Trump in the U.S.
The European Center study concluded that attacks have declined since but the fear felt by reporters continues.
One wonders why the attacks on, and fears reported by journalists, peaked when Trump had just emerged and declined when he hit the crescendo of his energetic campaign against the media? It apparently did not occur to the European Center that the cause might have been the immigration wave itself rather than the strong language.
It's a stretch to use one state in Germany to make a case against a U.S. president anyway.
What does seem common across the two nations is the media’s fear of criticism, with American mainstream media universally apoplectic over Trump’s charge of "fake news" against their hallowed institution and Sulzberger and Noack simply leading the pack.
Why are they so sensitive to criticism? An on-line article in Politico.com by Jack Shafer and Tucker Doherty helps explain. At one time journalists worked in newspapers in every little town across America.
Most are gone now and everyone receives news from television and Internet reporters concentrated in east and west coast cities that are not representative of the nation. Today, 73 percent of internet publishing is from the Boston-New York-Washington-Richmond or Seattle-San Francisco-Phoenix corridors — all uniformly progressive Democratic bastions.
In this bubble mostly safe from countervailing opinions, the journalistic elite apparently do not comprehend that two-thirds of Americans do not think they do "a good job of separating fact from opinion" as a glance at Gallup could inform them.
Or, perhaps they subliminally do understand and so keep preaching ever more loudly that only they produce real news.
Occasionally, a mainstream voice engages in a bit of introspection. Washington Post columnist David von Drehle bravely asked some uncomfortable questions about "real news" in the form of the almost daily media obsession with mass killers.
Unlike most journalists von Drehle has actually studied murderers and finds a "dismal sameness" in most. "The killer is alienated, aggrieved and grandiose, he is oversensitive to his own hurt and dead to the pain of others," narcissist, paranoid, sociopathic, all mixed into a "deadly stew" of self-absorption.
What concerns von Drehle most is the evidence that "continues to accumulate that many of these killers are eager for their moment in [the media] spotlight."
One mass murderer says "directors will be fighting for this story," another declares "look how many fans" I can accumulate; yet another says, "one can be known by everyone,". Still another looked forward to "his face splashed on every screen, his name across the lips of every person."
Von Drehle ends," So I ask my fellow journalists: When the killers themselves are telling us they draw inspiration from the prospect of our coverage why do we continue to say their names and show their pictures? Nothing is learned from doing this," making killers into stars.
Yes, the president was correct; mainstream media do place the lives of many at risk.
But promoting murderers is not the only media threat to social comity. Why should anyone have to contend with stupid, offensive questions by reporters in one’s own home, shouted demands meant to further inflame and manipulate an already divided nation?
Trump did draw a line in expelling CNN’s Kaitlan Collins from a White House event for asking "inappropriate" questions but that has not moderated the media circuses, even resulting in criticism from Fox News.
Many of us tried to convince Ronald Reagan to expel all media from their special access on White House grounds if they could not ask civil questions. They have no right there at all. Why should the arrogant, myopic, self-important occupy such hallowed space?
Let the media find its own venues. With Twitter there is no further reason against eviction, including for Fox, and the public would welcome decorum and civility in a proper setting.
Donald Devine is senior scholar at the Fund for American Studies, the author of "America’s Way Back: Reclaiming Freedom, Tradition and Constitution," and was Ronald Reagan’s director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management during his first term. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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