Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the Internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. As members of the media, we’ve been compelled by the debate taking place on how the so-called Fourth Estate will square off against a President-Elect who has been borderline abusive and threatening towards members of the press at his rallies and whose victory called the press’s function into question for various reasons. Here are the essential pieces to read over the Thanksgiving break.
Perhaps the most thorough rundown of all the different threads and ideas about the media’s role in the 2016 election is Ed Pilkington’s at The Guardian, a piece which uses information from a Guardian and Columbia Journalism Review survey of peers. If you look at the minimal effect serious investigative journalism, editorial page endorsements, and calling out the candidate on lies seem to have had, the result is sobering. “Put all these indicators together, and you start to wonder whether Donald Trump’s unlikely victory has sounded the death knell for the influence and authority of what he and his supporters scathingly call the ‘mainstream media,'” he writes.
The President-Elect’s angry tweets at the New York Times were contrasted by a humble meeting in which he called the paper a “jewel.” As many reporters noted, he’s a man who is often eager to please whatever audience is in the room with him whether it’s newspaper reporters or foaming-at-the-mouth attendees at his rallies.
Yet this is not always the case. The Times’ insistence that its meeting with Trump be on the record enabled them to avoid the humiliation faced by cable news figures whose off-the-record meeting with the President-Elect at Trump Tower resulted in a dressing-down. Margaret Sullivan wrote about what the cable figures did wrong: “He got a lot of attention, he got to continue bashing the establishment elite, and he evidently put the TV people on notice that if they want access to him as president, they’ll need to bow and scrape. Notably, Trump hasn’t held a news conference since July.”
Glenn Greenwald put a spotlight on the media’s obsession with Trump’s treatment of them rather than on other vulnerable groups. “Finally, after everything Trump has said — about immigrants, Muslims, women, etc. — this is what upsets these journalists: that he criticized them to their faces using a mean tone.”
Emily Bazelon has a long piece at the Times on the role of lawsuits, like the one against Gawker spearheaded by Trump backer Peter Thiel, in quashing a free press.
What’s new here are two forces squeezing journalism like pincers. The first is a figure like Thiel, willing to place bets on lawsuit after lawsuit until he hits on a winning combination of facts, judge and jury. The second is the public’s animosity toward the press, now fueled by the soon-to-be president. Juries tend to reflect public sentiment and have recently penalized not just an irreverent new-media site like Gawker, but also a newspaper doing investigative work.
Some outlets are trying to push back. Think Progress will no longer use the term “alt right.” Christiane Amanpour has written a vigorous call to action for her fellow journalists:
…I admit I was shocked by the exceptionally high bar put before one candidate and the exceptionally low bar put before the other candidate.It appeared much of the media got itself into knots trying to differentiate between balance, objectivity, neutrality, and crucially, truth.>We cannot continue the old paradigm — let’s say like over global warming — where 99.9% of the empirical scientific evidence is given equal play with the tiny minority of deniers.
Amanpour urged the media to hold fast to values and not be intimidated by charges of elitism.