Recently I had several listeners to my syndicated Catholic radio show, e-mail me and express how utterly shocked and disappointed they were because I was not taking allegations concerning Donald Trump seriously. The salacious claims were made in a 35-page document that was never verified as anything but nasty rumors. However, thanks to a number of reporters whose level of professionalism is far below the reputation of your run of the mill tabloid contributor, some people take what at this point is still fiction as fact. That’s exactly why some in the press threw it out there; just to see what sticks. And that’s exactly why it’s time for a media “time-out.”
The lack of professionalism being displayed by the press is utterly appalling. Having media outlets such as BuzzFeed and CNN publish something completely unproven about President-elect Trump, and for the CNN reporter to throw a temper tantrum about it in a presidential news conference, is unacceptable. Why report fake news unless there is some other motive? I agree with Vice President-elect Pence that their goal is to discredit the Trump presidency, no matter what the cost—even at the detriment of their integrity.
I remember back to my days as a young news reporter in Detroit where feisty politicians often seemed to enjoy sparring with the press. It was a way to divert from the issue at hand. Reporters who lost their cool ended up being the center of the story. This was also the case with the President-elect’s first news conference, and as a result the news suffered. However, this reporter believed he was totally justified in rudely criticizing the President-elect for not taking his question. He tried to make the President-elect look like the bad guy but failed.
As someone who has spent 36 years in the trenches as a reporter, anchor, media consultant, and now a nationally syndicated talk show host, I think now is a good time for a media “time-out.” Coaches and parents call “time-outs” with a purpose of reflecting upon what just happened, why it happened, and how things can change. If I were White House Media Queen for a day, below are a few of the suggestions I would make:
- Give Them a Time-Out: You act like a child; you’ll be treated as a child. Continuing to yell louder didn’t get the reporter his way. Did the CNN reporter really think that Trump was going to allow him to ask his question if he kept raising his voice even louder? Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested the reporter and his network be given a six-month suspension from White House briefings. Booting them from the briefings is not a bad idea. Rude, unprofessional media grandstanding should not be tolerated.
- Break up the Old Boys and Girls Club: Who says it has to be the same old song and dance? Why not mix it up a bit? Give other hard-working journalists a chance—those who actually report real (versus fake) news.
- Change the Venue of Press Briefings: Following up on my second suggestion, I agree with incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer who is examining moving the location of the White House briefings to the White House Conference Center, one block away, which would allow different as well as additional media to cover the new administration. There are only about 49 seats in the White House press room. The more media given the chance to cover the White House, the better the chance of a bit of fresh air in the coverage. Believe it or not, the head of the White House Correspondents Association says moving the briefings would be “unacceptable.” Seriously? Here we go again. First a CNN reporter last week yells at the President-elect and now another reporter tells an official how things are going to be. One more reason why we need to shake things up.
- Initiate a Code of Conduct for Press Briefings: Given the unprofessional decorum that’s been displayed, the incoming administration needs to set some standards. The President-elect can take questions from whomever he likes. It’s his news conference. Let’s not forget, he is, in fact, about to become the most powerful person on the planet. It’s quite shocking, and sad really, that the new White House Press Secretary needed to remind reporters of basic common courtesies. and that they’ll be shown the door if they don’t abide.
- Increase the Social Media Presence: If this election has proven anything, it’s that social media is one of the most effective ways to bypass the media and reach the American people directly. If the mainstream media realize they’re not the only information game in town, then maybe they’ll up their reporting game and actually do their job, as opposed to constantly promoting their specific agendas.
While time-outs and etiquette lessons for the media may sound extreme, given the current and very pathetic condition of American journalism, we need to raise the bar here. In order for Catholics, and all Americans, to be active in the public square, we need solid information to help guide us The American people deserve the truth. Without an honest press, without truth, we all suffer greatly, the media included.