The Washington Post’s media columnist, Margaret Sullivan, who is also a former Public Editor of the New York Times, has an idea that she claims is novel, but may sound familiar to Republicans: news outlets should coordinate their efforts to defeat Donald Trump! It really is an extraordinary column:
Media outlets have given the likely Republican presidential nominee something like $2 billion worth of free exposure and, in many cases, let him get away with blatant falsehoods — even about something as basic as whether he did or didn’t support the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Maybe I missed it, but I don’t recall liberal columnists objecting to Trump’s free publicity during the primary season, when it helped him defeat Republicans who would have been stronger general election candidates.
Fairness is of utmost importance, no doubt, whether the reporting is on Trump, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. But what, exactly, does it mean in campaign coverage? It should mean keeping an open mind, not bringing preconceived ideas to one’s reporting, and listening seriously to candidates’ explanations.
It should never mean false equivalency, where equal time and emphasis are given to candidates or dissembling is allowed to go unchallenged. …
News outlets ought to rethink the purpose of their campaign coverage. It’s not to be equally nice to all candidates. It’s to provide Americans with the hard information they need to decide who is fit to lead the country.
In other words, the job of a reporter is to help win the election for Hillary Clinton. It isn’t long before this conclusion becomes explicit:
There have been encouraging moments: CNN’s Jake Tapper pushing Trump hard for clarity on an endorsement from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Fox’s Megyn Kelly (before she went all fan-girl) asking a searing question about Trump’s treatment of women in a Republican debate. The Times’s investigation into Trump’s hiring of foreign workers at his Florida club, Mar-a-Lago. The Post’s reporters pushing so hard for answers on Twitter about claimed charitable contributions to veterans that Trump found it necessary to hold a news conference.
We need much more of this in every medium. Every day, in every news cycle.
Every day, every news cycle, in every medium: beat up on Trump!
Rather than promoting the same treatment for each candidate, how about this: rigorous and sustained truth-telling in the public’s interest. Citizens deserve some fairness, too.
Don’t treat Trump the same way you would treat a Democrat!
It’s time for tough follow-up questions, time for TV news to pick up on some of the hard-hitting reporting being done elsewhere, and maybe — radical notion alert! — it’s even time for news organizations to get together and prepare to defend themselves.
So news organizations should form a cabal to smear Donald Trump. But, hey, it’s self-defense!
That won’t come naturally to these highly competitive outfits, but given the assault on press rights that surely would come with a Trump presidency, strength in numbers is a far better idea than providing even-handed, nonconfrontational coverage.
What is the “assault on press rights” that “surely” would accompany a Trump presidency? It’s hard to say. Maybe she is referring to Trump’s desire to liberalize defamation law, or maybe she imagines there is a press right not to be contradicted. In any event, it’s not every day you see a journalist come out openly against “even-handed coverage,” while advocating ganging up on a disfavored politician, i.e., “strength in numbers.” We always knew that this is how liberals think, but it is unusual to see one of them put it in writing.