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The press on the press on Meet the Press

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Over on Twitter, several people have picked up on WSJ editor-in-chief Gerard Baker’s comments on objectivity and how people should totally trust the press to bring them the facts, unless the fact is that someone lied. (Link: Chestnut Knights of the Equine Order [I think that’s right] AKA Tiger Beat on the Potomac.)

“I’d be careful about using the word, ‘lie.’ ‘Lie’ implies much more than just saying something that’s false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead,” Baker said, noting that when Trump claimed “thousands” of Muslims were celebrating on rooftops in New Jersey on 9/11, the Journal investigated and reported that they found no evidence of a claim.

“I think it’s then up to the reader to make up their own mind to say, ‘This is what Donald Trump says. This is what a reliable, trustworthy news organization reports. And you know what? I don’t think that’s true.’ I think if you start ascribing a moral intent, as it were, to someone by saying that they’ve lied, I think you run the risk that you look like you are, like you’re not being objective,” he said.

Appeal to authority, abdicate responsibility, admire paycheck, repeat!

But Dean Baquet, executive editor of the NYT was also on Meet the Press, and he reflected on what the paper could have done differently during the election. Written more articles about emails, of course.

I kid.

Baquet said that while he was proud of the work the paper did on Trump, where the paper missed in their coverage was “understanding the anger in the country.”

“I think if news organizations made a mistake, and I can only speak for my own, I think that we wrote stories about anger in the country,” Baquet said. “We even did a series called Anxiety in America.

Anxiety, anger. They’re both emotions that begin with A.

But, of course, we should’ve done more. And I think people would’ve been less surprised, had we done more. That’s what I would’ve done differently.”

It seems that would depend on who was featured in the articles and the source of their anxiety/anger. Before the election the people I know were worried a Republican president – especially if he were abetted by a Republican Congress – would expose them to violence by the state and other citizens. If the NYT had done regular articles on those people and their anxieties, I don’t think that would have lowered the surprised by election results level.

However, the series the NYT did pull together focused on the big E.A. in rural North Carolina, Seattle, Las Vegas and Youngstown, Ohio; the unbearable sadness of Iowan evangelicals who didn’t like Trump, and a couple of weeks before the election, African-Americans who use or volunteer at a food pantry in Philadelphia. So I’m not confident newlywed lesbians worried that their marriage would be declared void, immigrants worried they’d be chased out of the country or Muslims worried they would have to submit to some sort of registry would have gotten much ink.

At any rate, the punchline:

Baquet noted that while Trump has been well-investigated by the press there are still some “huge, unanswered questions,” including how wealthy he is, what he owns, and how much debt he has.

Investigated and covered aren’t synonyms. And it is too bad there isn’t an organization that could keep hammering away at the fact that Trump was refusing to answer those huge unanswered questions, and write about its attempts to find those answers and what the failure to divulge that information might mean and so on because one of the functions of a healthy and useful press is to pester the fuck out of the powerful until someone cracks and answers the questions, or does something stupid and worthy of coverage and with Trump the latter is always a dead cert.

And if that was too much work, there was always the racism (or the sexism). But instead we got emails.

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  • stonetools

    Isn’t saying ” I don’t think that’s true” about a what’s purports to the knowing, unambiguous statement of fact calling it a lie?

    What’s incredible is that the same guy bemoans the press being “too deferential to politicians”. Isn’t refusing to call a lie a lie an example of “undue deference?”
    The problem here is the Wall Street Journal doesn’t want to call the leader of the conservative party a liar, because, hey, that could spread to calling other conservatives” liars” for saying things like “Tax cuts will pay for themselves.”

    • Donalbain

      The problem is being deferential to politicians.
      Donald Trump is not a politician.
      He said he is not a politician and we cannot possibly decide if he is telling the truth.

  • Mike G

    Baker apparently subscribes to the George Costanza theory, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

    And if you’re candidate is so batshit that your reporters think he actually believes every nutbar utterance he makes, then he’s off the hook. Very convenient.

    • UserGoogol

      That’s the definition of lying. If you believe it, it’s an error. If you don’t believe it, it’s a lie. If you don’t care one way or another, it’s bullshit. These are three fundamentally distinct categories and it does no good to lump them together. I think it’s quite clear Trump is deeply in the territory of ignorance and bullshit.

      That said, the fact that I don’t think Trump lied doesn’t mean the media couldn’t have done more to report that Trump spoke untruth. “Trump said X, which isn’t true” is a formula you saw thrown around a decent amount, and it should have been used more.

      • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

        If you don’t care one way or another, it’s bullshit.

        This seems to be where Trump spends most of his waking life. That’s why he makes so many random and contradictory statements – he is just saying what he thinks will sound good to that particular audience at that particular time. The problem for him now is that everything he says is being paid attention to, so people are noticing the BS.

      • Trump repeatedly makes false claims, even after they’re proven to be false. That’s a liar.

        • efgoldman

          Trump repeatedly makes false claims, even after they’re proven to be false. That’s a liar.

          That’s a classic narcissist.

        • tsam

          This is what I hate about Politifact. Some jackass says something they damn well know is false, and they rate it mostly false or false, rather than pants on fire. I suppose they don’t want to be in the business of making judgements about motivations, but if a chain email makes a pants on fire claim, it should rate the same when trump says something equally fucked up.

        • UserGoogol

          I don’t see how that qualifies as lying. If disproving beliefs caused people to stop beleiving them, we’d live in a very different world.

          Of course, being detached from reason is in many ways worse than lying. The liar at least is aware of the truth and can shape their policy based on it. But intent is a very key part of the definition of lying.

  • XTPD

    The nickname is correct (thanks for the shout-out, BTW, although I suppose just “Chestnut Knights” would be less unwieldy). FWIW, right after the election, commenter Taylor linked to two pieces where NYT reporters straight-up admitted that they crafted their stories to fit The Prevailing Narrative – that might give slim hope as to their workability by the left, but I’d like to hear Baquet & Spayd try to justify that shit.

    • random

      I was present on the thread where you coined that and also appreciated it. Kudos.

  • Hogan

    I think if you start ascribing a moral intent, as it were, to someone by saying that they’ve lied, I think you run the risk that you look like you are, like you’re not being objective

    WSJ not looking objective? That bed was beshitted before you were born.

    • XTPD

      “If I were to create a list of questions to ask potential managers of my money, one of them would be: “Do you read the WSJ OpEds?” If the answer were yes, I would not walk but run in the opposite direction.”

      – Barry Ritholz

      • Colin Day

        What if I read the WSJ OpEds to learn what NOT to do?

    • tsam

      Well, maybe the inaccuracies are unintentional. That’s not nearly as bad as lying, right?

      • Hogan

        And maybe they’re still unintentional even if you keep repeating them after they’ve been conclusively disproved. People are complicated.

        • tsam

          Well, conclusively disproven just makes it all the more INTRIGUING.

    • EliHawk

      I think if you start ascribing a moral intent, as it were, to someone by saying that they’ve lied, I think you run the risk that you look like you are, like you’re not being objective

      The fact that Secretary Clinton didn’t tie her left shoe yesterday, just raises further questions about her character and trustworthiness…”

  • tsam

    Depeche Mode

    You fucking rule, Shakezula.

    • (((Malaclypse)))

      I don’t mean to start any blasphemous rumours, but she’s our own personal Jesus.

      • tsam

        Niccccccce

  • Dilan Esper

    Baquet isn’t wrong in a sense. The press definitely missed the story of rust belt support for Trump. Even on election night they were talking about an early call.

    • efgoldman

      The press definitely missed the story of rust belt support for Trump.

      Or maybe they just didn’t have enough column inches left over after all the EMAILLZZZ and QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT THE CLINTON FOUNDATION stories they had to find room for.
      Christ, does Basquet even own a fucking mirror? There must be some in the executive bathroom.

  • tsam

    So it’s a mistake to write about anger/anxiety in America? That wasn’t your mistake chief. The mistake normalizing Trump and amplifying racist and sexist dogma. How you treated that shit, as if it were a legitimate “side of the debate” rather than the dangerous hate and fearmongering it is was the mistake. Now get the fuck out of the news business or go to work for Infowars or Breitbart.

    • Nobdy

      Now get the fuck out of the news business or go to work for Infowars or Breitbart.

      Why did you use a disjunctive “or” here?

      • tsam

        One is the news business, which the WSJ purports to be, the others are pure propaganda–oh, I see what you’re saying. Yeah I just fucked up.

  • Yankee

    “I think people would’ve been less surprised”

    Best case! It’s not like it would have made any difference. The Force, she is what she is!

    • Lurking Canadian

      THIS! Holy shit, so much of THIS.

      The media’s failure in 2016 wasn’t that they didn’t predict Trump’s election. The media’s failure in 2016 was that they fucking GOT Trump elected.

      • I’m convinced they wanted it. I’m convinced they lobbied for it.

  • Anxiety, anger. They’re both emotions that begin with A.

    So is “asshole”. Oh, wait; that’s not an emotion, it’s a way of life!

    • catclub

      Until I started reading the Authoritarians, I thought RWA was the abbreviation for right wing asshole.

      • Mike G

        Authoritarian, asshole — a distinction without a difference

  • LosGatosCA

    The problem is not low information voters exclusively, that will be a persistent problem and for willfully ignorant voters (i.e. Republicans) no cure.

    But there’s simply no excuse for a low information, willfully ignorant press.

    • Phil Perspective

      Yes there is. Upton Sinclair nailed it many years ago. “It’s hard to get someone to understand something when his paycheck depends on him not understanding it.” That goes for the whole media, even the beloved Comcast television network(aka MSNBC, CNBC and NBC).

  • DrDick

    Today in everything that is wrong with our courtier press.

  • If you’re a Trumpkin you can count on the press covering you with fawning articles attempting to understand your POV. If you’re a lib like me, you’re pretty much screaming into the void. My anger? It doesn’t count for some reason.

    • Have you tried tuning your anger to a White hetero male afraid of losing unearned privilege frequency? That seems to be a channel the press is picks up loud and clear.

      • N__B

        There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next four years, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to – The MAGA Limits.

    • efgoldman

      My anger? It doesn’t count for some reason.

      We liberals aren’t supposed to get angry. We’re supposed to write 97 point position papers.

      Me? I’ve been pissed off most of this year, and plan to stay that way for at least the next four fucking years.

  • Breadbaker

    To do a variation on a post I had in another thread today, every time Trump would tweet something about “#Crooked Hillary”, the hashtag would be repeated verbatim with no elaboration. That was his calculated characterization of her (much like his description of Senator Warren as “Pocahontas”) and the media incessantly repeated it causing a lot of voters to assume it was simply true. There was no reason in any form of journalist ethics why they couldn’t have simply replaced it with [Secretary Clinton]”. And yet none of them, none, did so.

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    As countless others have pointed out, your choice of musical accompaniment is always leaves one strugglibg for superlatives (how did I not know about Electric Six?!). Any chance you could do your own Best Music of 2016 post?

  • Yeah, well, the role of the corporate media is actually to support those in power no matter what.

    And that’s why the corporate media are worthless at best, and overall harmful to society.

    None of this should even be an issue. Like the role of the media should be calling out bullshitters in power, we need to hammer that the corporate media failed us and continue to fail us and it’s deliberate.

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