It begins like this:
Breaking News: The homeland security chief told colleagues she was close to resigning after President Trump berated her in a cabinet meeting over border security https://t.co/7ojrr5Cs04
— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 10, 2018
Then the liberal broadcast news media — who are lazy and get a lot of their segment ideas from The New York Times — almost immediately grab the story and run with it:
— MTP (@MTP) May 10, 2018
By the end of the day, another major media outlet — ABC News in this case — has latched on for a little attention of its own.
These then get promoted on Twitter to the millions of followers that the major MSM outlets have and the message is reinforced.
First, this is barely a story. Volatility in the Trump administration ceased being front-page stuff a long time ago. Presidents getting mad at those who work for them isn’t new either, it just doesn’t get reported when a Democrat occupies the Oval Office.
The problem with this “story” is that it relies on a source or sources who aren’t named.
Before I proceed it should be pointed out that I am merely using this story as an example. It may prove to be 100% true — but a good many of these don’t. It’s Thursday as I write this and this is the story that kept popping up today.
It is no secret to anyone that most of the political media in America don’t like this president. Many people would say that the MSM is focused solely on disrupting Trump’s presidency. Others will say that the press is doing God’s work and speaking truth to power.
I say that an endless stream of anonymously sourced stories isn’t journalism, it’s gossip.
The biggest news of the day is that the administration secured the release of three American hostages from North Korea. It was a win for the hostages, a win for the president, and a win for the American people.
None of those fit the MSM’s narrative or agenda. I’m not saying that the liberal media types in this country are unhappy that three Americans were freed from a brutal regime, I’m merely saying that they probably just wish that the hostages could have handled the torture until a Democrat was president. They were probably thrilled that it happened in the middle of the night when most of their fans were asleep. That saved them from having to pretend to not hate the story.
Now take a moment and imagine how this hostage release would be playing out in the media had it been orchestrated by President Obama.
If you are being honest with yourself, you know that the MSM reaction would be more “faithful Labrador Retriever tongue bath” than “analysis.” We would be regaled for at least three news cycles with stories about The Lightbringer’s heaven-sent diplomatic skills. We’d be repeatedly assured that the release was only possible because “Everybody around the world loves him!”
We would have also forked over high-value prisoners and a lot of cash, because Obama actually possessed no diplomatic skills whatsoever.
The current state of the press is such that it couldn’t possibly spend an hour or two reporting on something that actually happened, especially if it reflects well on President Trump. They needed a story like the one about the Homeland Security secretary today to give them cover for not talking about the good news.
I am not suggesting that legitimate anonymous sources don’t exist and that journalists should not use them. I am saying that the majority of a journalist’s reporting on a given subject shouldn’t be based on them (don’t hit me here with Watergate–that was one story, not 18 months’ worth of different stories). After a while, the lack of on-the-record sourcing becomes nothing more than the journalistic version of a nosy neighbor who loves telling you what she overheard so-and-so say.
Perhaps my sensitivity to this is higher because I consume so much news every day. That doesn’t make me wrong though.
It has gotten to the point that I can spot the anonymously sourced stories just from the tweets promoting them, even if, as is the case with the ABC News story linked earlier, the headline is presented as fact. If there is no accompanying video and the story seems like something that anyone at CNN would desperately want to be true, there is nobody on the record to back it up.
If you spend even a day reading several of these stories you get the feel for the formula pretty quickly. There are enough qualifying word and phrases (“allegedly,” “according to,” “seemed,” “a source close to”) to make you wonder if the source really does exist or if everyone in Beltway media just stays in bed all day guzzling boxed wine and making things up.
I’m not saying that I know of any drunk reporters but I may have a source close to someone who allegedly heard of an insider who seemed to have said that. One time. Maybe.
Speaking of facts (we were a few paragraphs ago), here is what we do have on the record as of this writing:
Following the release of the report, Nielsen said in a statement that Trump “is rightly frustrated” on border security issues.
“I share his frustration,” Nielsen’s statement said. “Border security is the most basic and necessary responsibility of a sovereign nation.”
A Homeland Security spokesperson later denied the claims made in The Times’s report: “The [New York Times] article alleging that the Secretary drafted a resignation letter yesterday and was close to resigning is false,” spokesperson Tyler Houlton said. “The Secretary is hard at work today on the President’s security-focused agenda.”
That rather puts a damper on the story.
Not to worry, this particular article ran on for several paragraphs after these two quotes as if they never happened, reinforcing the original narrative.
They are probably buying the boxed wine in bulk. I’m sure ABC has a Costco card.
As I never discount any possibility these days, I realize that Nielsen may resign or be fired before lunch time tomorrow. The Friday News Dump is coming up, after all.
Should that happen, it will be an anomaly. There will then be at least three more BIG STORIES before tomorrow night that use the template I have outlined here.
People like me who complain about the press aren’t anti-journalism. We are anti-feelings and opinions being dressed up as reporting.
It’s the difference between telling a story and storytelling.
The MSM seems a little fuzzy on that these days.