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5 New Year's Resolutions for the Mainstream Media

Fake News type on Vintage Typewriter

It’s a brand new year, and you know what that means: time for New Year’s resolutions! Untold numbers of people will make a resolution this year, and most folks will break those resolutions. I know, because I’m one of them (“This is the year I’ll drop those pounds,” I tell myself year in and year out).

Just because I’m terrible at keeping resolutions doesn’t mean I can’t suggest them for others. I mean, who’s in more dire need of a change in patterns of behavior these days than the media? That’s right, I have five New Year’s resolutions that are perfect for the media, and I’m going to share them with you. Enjoy!

1. Give President Trump the benefit of the doubt when he does something worthwhile

I’ve made no secret that I was a never-Trumper during the 2016 election, but after he won, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Even though I'm willing to call balls and strikes on the current administration, I'm more than happy to give him credit when he succeeds. In 2018, I think the media should begin to do the same.

For over a year now, the press has operated with a rather simplistic calculus: anything Donald Trump does is bad. It’s time for the media to vary the script now and then because the president has done some terrific things – sometimes without even tweeting about them!

Don’t get me wrong: it’s perfectly fine to not agree with everything he does, but the reporters don’t have to treat every Trump sneeze as a dog whistle to the alt-right or equate every innocuous tweet as a sign of creeping fascism. There’s nothing wrong whatsoever with acknowledging that he’s done something well once in a while.

(There’s a corollary to this one for outlets like Fox News and most right-of-center talk radio hosts: you can call Trump out when he does something dumb or misguided.)

2. Prioritize getting the facts straight over being the first to report

Our 24-hour news cycle has created a disturbing trend in which media outlets often breathlessly report breaking news items without vetting the news before going on the air with it. I understand the pressure. With so many ways for Americans to get their news and with the need to fill airtime around-the-clock, when events break, there’s enormous pressure to be first to the punch.

But this problem doesn’t limit itself to broadcast media. In the social media age, writers and editors scramble to be the first to post a breaking news event, and on social media, the problem may be worse.

It’s bad enough that false stories – not just the dreaded “fake news” but also accounts with sloppy reporting and fact-checking – make it on air or on the web to begin with. It’s even worse that the corrections to the bad reporting get buried in the coverage or get fewer likes and retweets than the initial story.

Just because celebrities and athletes go off half-cocked and make outrageous claims doesn’t mean that the media should do the same with their reporting. Take a little time to get the facts straight before sharing an even with the world. It just might do wonders for an outlet’s credibility.