It’s a fad – if not an obsession – for politicians to blame the “liberal mainstream media” for just about everything: What they write about. What they don’t write about. How they write about what they write about.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign is sending out “Media Bias of the Day” press releases, where he picks on news outlets – The Washington Post, The New York Times and CNN have been targets – for how they’re covering the presidential race.
Sometimes the criticism is warranted. Other times, it isn’t.
Maybe if Trump stopped doing and saying such odd things for a presidential candidate, he wouldn’t always be the subject of news stories that he then criticizes.
Never miss a local story.
But I digress.
I attended a campaign event for Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest recently in Troy. He picked on the news media a few times during a speech to about 60 people gathered there. He wasn’t mean about it but pointed out areas where he doesn’t believe the media have treated fairly the Republicans who control the state.
I get that.
He mentioned me by name a couple of times, pointing out that I work for the company that owns The News & Observer of Raleigh and The Charlotte Observer.
They are the two best papers in the state, hands down, but often get a bad rap from politicians. When Democrats were in control, a top Democratic operative and a good source of mine would routinely call the Raleigh paper The News & Disturber. Good papers are equal opportunity offenders, and, quite honestly, that’s the role of a free press.
Don’t forget that those two papers helped put plenty of Democrats in jail too.
Politicians – because they are often the targets of negative coverage – have very personal reasons to dislike newspapers. Like the lieutenant governor, it becomes part of their shtick and campaign rhetoric to lambast the media.
Again, sometimes it’s warranted. Other times, it’s not.
What bothers me to no end is when people who clearly don’t read newspapers very often jump on the paper-hating bandwagon.
That happens frequently, including at Forest’s rally. During a question-and-answer period, a woman asked why she hadn’t heard more from the media about legislation passed during the recent short session that will set tuition at $500 per semester at three North Carolina universities. Forest mentioned that in his speech.
She called it “fantastic news.”
“I can guarantee you that more parents of rising seniors know about the meat sale at Food King than know about the $500 tuition,” she told Forest, to many chuckles in the audience.
I can tell you with no degree of uncertainty that that was one of the biggest stories in Raleigh this session and was reported over and over for weeks in various news outlets, specifically the ones that regularly cover state government.
Forest, unfortunately, played right into her newspaper bashing and told her she asked a great question.
Um, no she didn’t. She only proved that she doesn’t read any credible paper in this state – or at least not very often.
Sorry, but it’s not a newspaper’s fault if you don’t read it.
After the event, I sat down with Forest, and I mentioned the fact that the $500 tuition story was covered extensively this summer. He acknowledged that was true.
“You all actually printed that one,” he said.
Forest agreed that people have a responsibility to go out and find reliable information, even if it can be hard to wade through all of the muck out there these days. In my opinion, the “mainstream media” is still the best – and most unbiased – source of news.
If you’re going to criticize the media, at least pay attention to it first.
You might learn something that you can explain to your friends or point out at public meetings.
And if you still don’t like what you read, then criticize away.
We’re used to it, whether it’s warranted or not.
Sometimes, we even deserve it.
Patrick Gannon is the columnist for the Capitol Press Association. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.