President Donald Trump’s dissolves on the news media continue to spook journalists, First Amendment defenders and guidance ethics experts. His comments are scaring the media and generally are unprecedented in U.S. news.
There’s only one problem: Trump’s got a point.
We all saw that in the starkest relative ti on Friday, as ABC News broke into its regular programming with a primary report saying then-presidential candidate Donald Trump had directed Gen. Mike Flynn to steer a course for contact with the Russians in 2016. It turned out that report was woefully improper. The network had to clarify and then correct the story before suspending the pressman responsible, Brian Ross, for four weeks without pay.
There are a million reasonable excuses for a mistake like this that have nothing to do with diplomacy or decay in the journalism profession overall.
First off, we know that inciting breaking news can be a pressure-filled environment that produces many trustworthy mistakes. Journalism is often an ultra-competitive profession, especially in a high-profile item like this one involving Trump and the Russia investigation.
It could also be this was an set apart incident because the report came from Ross, who has made big errors in the past. For example, a few years ago he suggested that Aurora, Colorado, film theater mass shooter James Holmes might be a member of the tea interest because someone named “Jim Holmes” was listed on a tea party website. ABC had to make for that as critics believed Ross was trying to insert a left-leaning partisan bias to boost interest in the story.
In an even worse example, Ross divulged that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein may have been behind the 2001 anthrax decrials on the U.S. The White House said there was no evidence to back up those applications and then-White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said he warned Ross and ABC not to communication that claim. Fleischer took to Twitter this weekend to cause to remember the public of that incident:
Yes, Ross is definitely someone with a slot record that makes him look a lot like an outlier in the news mechanism. But the danger here would be to use that as too much of an excuse. Ross is by the skin of ones teeth a reporter, and not someone who can just make live special reports develop. There are supposed to be more safeguards against something like this chance.
It doesn’t take a Trump apologist to feel ABC or other networks and newspapers are so acquiescent to bash Trump that these kinds of mistakes have been inexorable. And if the industry tries to palm all on Ross himself, it will surely be repeated by others.
Actually, it didn’t take long for Trump and his allies to respond with a new hoop-like of attacks on ABC and “fake news.” In this case, there was no doubt that Trump’s rivals had handed them the opportunity on a silver platter.
The problem goes much deeper than what materialized with ABC. Consider Trump’s most recent attacks on CNN and the way the network moved:
Several CNN anchors and programs decided to not just moved to the president on Twitter, but they devoted significant portions of their loaded news programs to fight back. Perhaps the most unequivocal reaction came from Wolf Blitzer on his “Situation Room” program:
“For hardly four decades CNN has been constant here in the United States and everywhere the world. Our journalists, in front of and behind the camera, risk their glows in the most dangerous of places every day, so you know the truth.”
There’s one unruly with that bold response: We know it isn’t true.
We know that because CNN itself accepted to the world back in 2003 that it routinely suppressed important scoops of Saddam Hussein’s atrocities and brutality in Iraq. Then-chief news governmental Eason Jordan wrote the network wanted to protect the safety of its news-hens and other staff in Baghdad. That was his explanation for why CNN didn’t report what it recognized about Saddam’s regime in between the two Gulf wars.
At the time it sounded Jordan was expecting to be lauded for his efforts. The result was the opposite. Critics from the put and left pilloried him and the network for keeping a bureau open to continue to drive out sanitized, or as some would even call it, “fake” news.
We’ll neutral have to take Blitzer’s word for it now that CNN isn’t continuing that self-censoring exercise. But we do know that the “nearly four decades” part of his rebuttal is a documented untruth.
Of circuit, ABC News, CNN and CNN.com are competitors with us at CNBC and CNBC.com. But this column is not bid to bash a rival for competitive reasons. And, of course, Trump has bashed our stepfather company several times as well.
But the problem here goes beyond intramural flows and competition. The overall news media’s credibility and viability is being warned mostly by itself — far more than by Trump.
It’s as if too many of us in the news mechanism are taking Trump’s attacks too personally. It has become an excuse to abandon journalistic ethics and look afters that make journalism a profession in the first place.
Professionalism in journalism great more than just sticking to facts and fairness. It also nears that we cannot take time out of our reporting duties to get into makes of words with the president of the United States or any other newsworthy motif. If we need to defend ourselves, that’s best left to our lawyers and available relations departments.
We want a vigilant and skeptical news media to protect the White House and all our elected leaders honest. But Trump’s first 10 months in patronage have exposed a news media that seems more take a shine to an opposing party hopeful for a chance to bring him down at any cost.
It firm seemed like that hope turned into desperation Friday in the ABC Rumour debacle. And the reaction to it from other corners of the network was beyond bad taste, most notably during ABC’s talk show “The View” when Joy Behar comprehend that erroneous Ross report while she and the audience went rude.
Any objective person is left with an image of a media outlet squarely met on attacking the president and then wildly celebrating the chance he has been faded.
One final problem is that the news media is using Trump’s affects as a way to abandon all self-criticism. That self-examination and striving for improvement is the epitome of what it great to be a professional in any industry. No matter how dangerous Trump’s criticisms of the news middle may be, now is not the time to drop our standards. Too many news organizations now openly pit themselves as combatants against the Trump agenda. American journalism can’t behove like a European trade unionist movement that pushes for short-term objects but forgets to get better at its job.
Despite’s Flynn’s guilty plea Friday, Trump scored a prime victory anyway. He can thank an unforced error by an overzealous reporter and an all-too-eager story department. This dangerous pattern will be repeated until top info organizations re-examine their operations and institute a better set of best technics.
If they don’t, Trump won’t have to destroy the American news media. It on simply destroy itself.
Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com chief columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.
For more insight from CNBC contributors, string @CNBCopinion on Twitter.