Margaret Sullivan, who writes an excellent column about the news media for The Washington Post, gave some stern advice to her fellow journalists this morning:
First, be bolder and more direct than ever in telling it like it is. No more pussyfooting or punch-pulling. No more of what’s been called “false equivalence” — giving equal weight to truth and lies in the name of fairness.
Can mainstream outlets, influential as they are, really go up against the counter-messaging on places like Fox News, or Steve Bannon’s podcast or fact-averse outlets like Newsmax?
This battle can’t be fought with facts alone, argues journalism scholar Nikki Usher of the University of Illinois.
The only hope, she wrote, is for mainstream journalism to appeal to passion as well as reason — “providing moral clarity along with truthful content.” Or, as NYU’s Jay Rosen recently wrote, journalism must reposition itself in the media ecosystem, to seize this moment in history to take a clear stance, in everything it does, as “pro-truth, pro-voting, anti-racist, and aggressively pro-democracy.”
In other words, the reality-based press has to unapologetically stand for something. Otherwise, it’s just a pallid alternative to the excitement of burgeoning lies. . . .
Can journalists, mired in our “how we’ve always done it” mind-set, really change their stripes to fight the war on disinformation? Can we be more clear and direct, embrace a moral purpose, help to educate news consumers? And even if we do, will it make a significant difference?
I have serious doubts about the answers to those questions. But I do know that we have to try.
Soon thereafter, I saw the name “Chuck Todd” trending on Twitter. Todd is the host of Meet the Press, probably America’s best-known Sunday morning political talk show. He works for NBC, one of the networks Americans rely on for reality-based journalism. It was disturbing to see what he’d done this morning:
Really? We are totally screwed if this is what passes for reality on NBC.
I couldn’t find a video where he actually expressed doubt about Biden winning, so I did a search for “Chuck Todd” and found a Meet the Press transcript for this morning’s show. Here’s that part. He’s interviewing a Republican senator from North Dakota:
I mean, are you really saying that the president is — you’re out there saying that the president’s not encouraging somehow any way of sort of being disorderly about this. How is that not encouraging disruption and disorderly — he’s accusing the entire system of being corrupt. Is that not undermining the democracy?
SEN. KEVIN CRAMER:
Well, first of all, what they’re claiming is that there’s a lot of evidence and they’re presenting that evidence in cases. Now, it’s up to them to present that evidence, Chuck, obviously. And we’ve yet to see a real hearing where evidence was presented. And, and they’re not obligated to present it, you know, yesterday or tomorrow, although the sooner the better from my perspective. But I’m just speaking strictly now from this “attack on democracy,” as you call it. This is, these are legal systems. This is, these are processes that are in our Constitution, in our laws, and they’re not just appropriate, but they’re really an obligation, frankly, to the millions of Americans that President Trump is a reflection of. I know, you know, a lot of people like to think that we’re the reflection of him. He’s the reflection of millions of people that want to see him fight this to the end. Now, there has to be an end, Chuck. I agree there has to be an end. I, frankly, do think it’s time to — well, it was past time to start a transition, to at least cooperate with the transition. I’d rather have a president that has more than one day to prepare, should Joe Biden, you know, end up winning this. But in the meantime, again, he’s just exercising his legal options.
I just want to confirm. You believe that the head of GSA [the General Services Administration], tomorrow morning at this point, ought to say, “The transition needs to begin. It looks like Joe Biden’s going to be the apparent winner. Yes, there’s more to go through.” If this is what the head of GSA said, “Yes, there’s still more to go through, but it looks like Joe Biden’s the apparent winner. Let’s allow the transition process to begin,” should that be what happens tomorrow morning?
SEN. KEVIN CRAMER:
Yes, it should happen tomorrow morning because it didn’t happen last Monday morning. I just think you have to begin that process, give the incoming administration all the time they need.
So it wasn’t as bad as people were saying. He was putting words in the mouth of the Republican jerk who runs the GSA and still hasn’t started the official transition to the new administration, two weeks after we knew who won. Maybe we aren’t totally screwed yet.
Nevertheless, he did give a Republican politician several minutes on national TV to defend the indefensible. His audience got to hear a U.S. senator claim it’s reasonable that millions of voters want a sociopath to spread lies and undermine what’s left of our democracy. So maybe it’s only 90%.
Some good news, however: Biden now leads the maniac by more than six million votes. That margin will grow as laggard states, like New York, keep counting. He’ll end up with more than 80 million votes, the most ever for a presidential candidate. He’s won 306 electoral votes to the maniac’s 232, the same number the maniac got in 2016 (when he called it a “landslide”).
Most importantly, he made DDT (a more apt acronym than “DJT”) a one-term president. Since Franklin Roosevelt won his fourth term in 1944, only Jimmy Carter and the first George Bush have run for president as incumbents and lost (Truman and Johnson chose not to run). We know this election shouldn’t have been as close as it was, but, considering the alternative, having JRB in place of DDT counts for a lot.
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