Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality
By David G. Young
Miami Beach, Florida, December 27, 2016 --
Newspapers must learn to ignore much of what the president-elect says.
It's hard to overstate the hatred that old-school journalists have for president-elect Donald Trump. It's widely known that his policy positions were diametrically opposed to the elitist ideas promulgated by editorial boards of America's big city newspapers. But the primary reasons for their anger go beyond policy and extend to the politician's threat to the industry itself.
For most of the past year, Trump shut out mainstream reporters by refusing to hold press conferences, and giving interviews only to soft-ball entertainment-oriented talk show hosts. He cozied up to upstart outsider media agencies like right-wing Breitbart News, elevating its status in the process. Thuggish supporters repeatedly intimidated reporters at campaign events. And most of all, the president-elect has bypassed reporters entirely by communicating with the public directly one 140 character chunk at a time.
Newspapers are right to be angry, but their response has bordered on the irresponsible. Consider this New York Times' 7,622 character article over analyzing the 140 character Tweet: Trump Says U.S. Would ‘Outmatch’ Rivals in a New Nuclear Arms Race. This news "analysis" agonizes over the meaning of every last word, outstripping the tweet's length by a factor of more than 50.
The reality, of course, is that the president-elect has a short attention span, and had probably moved on to other subjects long before the Times' analysis was published. His Tweet and subsequent answers about it should never have been taken literally. He will never do half the things he says, even if he does believe a tiny kernel of it.
Given Trump's refusal to give the newspaper more traditional interviews, perhaps it could be forgiven for over analyzing his pithy comments, since they are the only thing they have to go by. And given that he will soon be the leader of the free world, perhaps it is fair game to do so. But knowingly cutting apart a comment about a non-existent policy is nothing more than gotcha journalism. And while it is true that the article was published the day before Christmas Eve, when slow news cycles often elevate all kinds of nonsense to front-page prominence, readers would have been better served if the Times had ignored the president-elect's comments and let a human interest puff-piece run instead.
Unfortunately for America, quality news outlets like the Times and the Washington Post are out of touch. They dismissed Trump supporters as a bunch of racist hayseeds and now they think they are going to use egghead logic to discredit him. That simply won't work. Amongst the readers of these newspapers, Trump has probably never had any support, anyway. Those who support him do so out of emotion not logic. No drawn-out analysis in a mainstream daily will ever change that fact.
1. New York Times, Trump Says U.S. Would 'Outmatch' Rivals in a New Nuclear Arms Race, December 23, 2016