A couple of moments that marked my former life as a broadcast journalist include a member of O.J. Simpson’s “dream team” telling me, “I love you guys individually, but I hate you collectively.” Another happened when a former member of the Los Angeles City Council left the microphones clustered atop a lectern, walked over and proceeded to cuss me out for demanding an answer to a question he didn’t care for. I didn’t care for being cussed out and continued to demand an answer to my question.
I recall these incidents and others with pride as badges of merit for doing my job, trying to get legitimate answers, a little honest information for the people I worked for, the people in our viewing audience who depended upon me and others like me to find out what the hell was actually going on.
All of this would be pure braggadocio, were it not for the fact that I was far from being the only reporter who would, at times, bite down and hang on like a pit bull if I felt someone was dodging a question that deserved a real answer, rather than the circular verbal shuffle now being employed by the likes of Donald Trump. Repeatedly. And every time it happens I wonder what happened to American journalism? When did hair and makeup become more important than holding public officials accountable, more important than getting it right? When did we backslide into becoming the country of the big lie?
An incident that bears mentioning happened at the Century Plaza Hotel in the early 80’s. It was long ago and I don’t recall who the member of Congress was that showed up at a news conference, only that he was from a state that is largely rural. I do recall that he began delivering a “good ole boy” spiel that was full of bunk. We listened, shaking our heads and looking at one another in disbelief until a reporter from the Los AngelesTimes could take it no longer and interrupted with anger, saying (paraphrased), “You don’t really expect us to believe any of this nonsense, do you? Where do you think you are? Who do you think you’re talking to?
Reporters are accepting answers from Donald Trump that Trump himself would never accept from contestants on The Apprentice. They sometimes talk about things without having even a basic understanding of their subject, like knowing the difference between an email account sitting on some company’s server with that same company providing securty and a private server in one’s own home, with any number of possible functions and security provided by who? Some friend of a friend who took a computing class at the local community college? Apparently Mrs. Clinton, has no idea. Reporters should, if they intend to continue reporting on it. Was Mrs. Clinton’s problem that she had a private email account or was it the fact that she had gone completely off the range with a personal server set up in her home doing God knows what while circumventing federal oversight and securty?
Why don’t reporters follow-up anymore, demanding an answer to something Trump has dodged by issuing a non-answer, which he does again and again – which is why the American people have literally no idea of how he actually feels about anything? It’s frightening. This guy actually has a shot at becoming President of the United States, and his positions on critical issues change from one day to the next. He’s done it on assault weapons, abortion and Muslims entering the United States. And now he will be forced to do it again on his idiotic claim that there is no drought in California, as the reservoirs are drying up and avacado orchards are being cut down to stumps.
It is, it seems, impossible to pin Trump down on any given issue, or so we’re told, which leads one to believe he has no firm conviction about anything. He’s cutting a deal, the biggest deal of his life, to be the most powerful person in the world and there is far too little accountability from the press with pundits complaining that it’s so hard to nail Trump down on an issue because he’s so skilled at doing his verbal shufffle.
Come on now people, its time to do your jobs. Mexico, will never build a wall on the border. The United States cannot simply carpet bomb our troubles away in the Middle East or deport eleven-million undocumented people whose families are now interwoven into our national fabric. We are not the Saudis, we do not punish women for having abortions and anyone to tells you these things is treating you like a pack of dummies. You should be outraged.
Do some fact checking. Do a little journalism. Please. There’s so much at stake.
A passage from the movie-version of “All the President’s Men” comes to mind. Washington Post Executive Editor, Ben Bradlee, is rousted out of of bed by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who tell him there may be electronic surveillance of their work on the Watergate story, that lives may be in danger, and that they made a mistake in their coverage of grand jury testimony, giving ammunition to those who want to attack the paper. Bradlee, listens to the reporters and says-
“You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a shit. You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be. Go on home, get a nice hot bath. Rest up… 15 minutes. Then get your asses back in gear. We’re under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys fuck up again, I’m going to get mad. Goodnight.”