My entire career was spent working in, or very close to, the news media. As such, lies the motivation for this rare, politically oriented comment I am sharing here.
I’ve sat in a local radio station’s marked news car on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. while a mob of protesters against the war in Vietnam jumped up and down on the car’s roof and hood. I’ve been a news producer who oversaw coverage of elections and other political events. I’ve spent years at jobs that entailed formatting and hiring personnel for the presentation of news and special events, not to mention years programming talk radio. So, to some degree, I have experience and accumulated knowledge of how the news works and is presented.
All that said, I was raised old-school journalism and I have a hard time accepting the heavy influence of the ever-emerging subjective news channels that have evolved over the past decade. I welcome commentary, but in my day it was clearly labeled as such. Today, whether you favor Fox News or MSNBC, the opinion is well integrated within the presentation and it is no longer easily decipherable what is subjective vs. objective. Never before has it been more clearly evident that mass media guru, Marshall McLuhan, was correct back in the 1960’s when he attempted to teach us that the medium is the message. It is my hope that the majority of the audience knows how to filter what they see and hear…but I admit I am not as hopeful as I have been prior to the Trump Presidency.
Uh-oh! There, I said it: a political statement with a specific opinion… something I never expose on any of my social media platforms. But Donald Trump has finally hit a nerve.
It is my understanding that, while running for the Presidency, the Trump Campaign worked a deal whereby the Sinclair Broadcast Group was given special access to the candidate in return for enhanced coverage on its many local television outlets—the level where most of Trump support resides. Sinclair has significant media punch, potentially owning enough local television stations to reach 70% of American households. If Trump is successful in expanding these kinds of media relationships he could indirectly control an unprecedented number of local news distributers who will favorably tout and willingly forward the Trump message without question. This is how demagogues formulate propaganda and ensure its penetration into the mindset of the people. They control and manipulate those who deliver the news.
I know it may sound naïve, but in all my years of working for companies, both big-name national broadcasters and local mom & pop shops, I never recall my station’s ownership dictating direction to the news department. No, never. That does not mean it does not happen, but I do not believe it happens nearly to the extent that the White House would wish us to believe.
Mind you, I am focusing in on only this aspect of our country’s current leadership. I am not taking position on or initiating any discussion, pro or con, dealing with any other parameters of the Trump administration.
But regarding this one issue, I cannot express how I feel anymore simply than this: Freedom of the Press is one of the sacred entities that ensure a democracy. Don’t take my word for it…just look around the world. Do you actually think that the citizens of countries such as Russia, North Korea, China and numerous others around the globe receive uncensored information from their news media? I don’t think I need to say anything else…other than, as an American, a nerve has been struck and I am a little scared, as never before.