A couple of weeks ago I came across a White House press briefing from January 2009, which happened to be the last briefing of the George W. Bush Administration. Then-Press Secretary Dana Perino was taking comedic jabs at the media, with a slideshow of embarrassing images to pair with it. Towards the end of the briefing, she said, “I think America needs more reporters, not fewer.”
My jaw nearly dropped when I noticed that the press was actually laughing along and having a good time. As someone who can only clearly remember the Obama and Trump Administrations, it seemed unfathomable that a presidential administration — especially a Republican one — could have a healthy relationship with the press. Did the left-leaning media give Perino and the entire George W. Bush Administration a hard time? Of course, but it was shocking to see the difference in the relationship with the press then and now.
The big question is: why has it changed and can that relationship be healed?
While the media has had a left-wing slant for decades, it took a sharp turn towards full-blown derangement when Donald Trump entered the race for president in 2015. The first controversy was regarding his comments about illegal immigrants at the southern border during his campaign announcement speech, and it was arguably all downhill from there in terms of mainstream media bias. The hate the mainstream media had for Trump was reciprocated with Trump’s perpetual attacks on various media outlets, referring to them as “fake news.” He has continually refused to speak at the annual White House Correspondents dinner. Before Kayleigh Mcenany took over as press secretary in April, the White House had not held an on-camera briefing led by a traditional press secretary in a year. Liberal journalists hate Trump, and Trump hates liberal journalists.
While calling out the ruling class and media elite is a good thing, healthy skepticism has turned into mob-like anger which has polarized both sides of the media bias debate. A big reason why we aren’t seeing any more Bush-era style briefings like the one I mentioned earlier has to do with the rise of social media.
Within the last 10 years, the use of social media as a tool for information has skyrocketed. The two most concerning consequences of this are the spread of misinformation and people trying to go viral. These factors are directly responsible for the toxic relationship between Trump and the press.
Some White House correspondents are very clearly looking for their 15 minutes of fame, and that desire has been accentuated with the constant coronavirus briefings. Plenty of journalists are not trying to ask important questions anymore — they just want to see their name trending on Twitter.
Journalists haven’t been the only ones creeping dangerously close to complete sensationalism; the network companies are guilty of this too. In April, CNN ran the following chyron: “Angry Trump turns briefing into propaganda session.” Sounds unbiased, right?
The average American is rather annoyed at the constant circus of the media and Trump clawing at each other. There are plenty of people on the right who find frequently calling out the media as refreshing, and the accountability of the press is something that needs to continue far beyond the Trump Presidency. However, the press would be able to redeem some of their credibility if certain changes were made within the industry. First, there needs to be an end to the constant “gotcha” questions slung at people who certain journalists dislike and the softballs for the people they do favor. If the question is only supposed to flatter or purposely anger the person, then it is no longer fair reporting.
Another major step towards restoring integrity in the press is making a clear distinction between opinion and objective journalism. The lack of distinction between the two has given the impression that there are multiple versions of the truth, and trains people to believe only the facts that align with their narrative. If people cannot even agree what the facts are — which are typically distributed by the news media — then it’s difficult for people to have a discussion.
The only way any division can be healed — whether it is between presidents and the press or with just everyday political discourse — is through mutual respect for one another. The role of the media is to hold those in power accountable, and average people need to hold those reporting information accountable as well.
There is a difference between fair criticism and partisan tantrums.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.