Now that Donald Trump has reopened the subject of term limits for Congress in his Gettysburg speech, it’s time to turn to the subject of term limits for a group that may need them even more — the media.
The moment couldn’t be more auspicious since WikiLeaks has just exposed 65 “journalists“–coming from such august names in the field as The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, Reuters, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC– who were at some level in cahoots with the Hilary Clinton presidential campaign.
Does anyone doubt this number will grow? Of course not, although it already encompasses almost all the prominent brands in the mainstream media.
But, you might ask, just because many of the reporters, broadcasters and pundits involved have worked, in many instances, for the same organizations for decades, far longer than most politicians have been in office and certainly longer than even two-term presidents, how can we “term limit” them? They are not, after all, government workers employed by the taxpayer and this is a capitalist country, at least for the moment.
Well, it’s quite simple, really. We simply call them what they are. They are not journalists in any real sense. They are public relations people — sometimes known, pejoratively, as flacks.
Now having spent a fair number of years writing books and movies, I am quite familiar with how PR people work, having had more than a few of them, some quite good and some not.
Thus reading through the WikiLeaks emails, the behavior of these PR folks (formerly known as journalists) was quite familiar to me. For example, when Glenn Thrush of Politico sent his article about Clinton to her campaign manager John Podesta in advance of publication, he was acting in the grand tradition of the public relations man, submitting his copy to his client for approval. In one of his emails to Podesta, Thrush goes so far as to call himself “a hack.” But he is not. He is a flack.
This is not a distinction without a difference. To be clear, public relations is an honorable and important profession, if you admit what you’re doing. All kinds of companies and individuals need public relations of many sorts to function. But you have to be clear about it. Most intelligent people reading a PR release realize they are reading a form of propaganda and take the natural bias into account. So it goes with the PR writers (formerly known as journalists).
So my suggestion is this — we give people, say, a two-year window (term limit?) to prove themselves as impartial journalists. If they don’t muster up, no big deal. (It’s hard to find a single person who’s unbiased anyway.) We simply call them public relations people — or flacks, if we’re mean — and call it a day.
Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His latest book is I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already.