Skip to main content

A Plea to Journalists: The election is being sabotaged and we need you on our side

Dear Members of the Journalism Community:

Our democracy is facing a clear and present danger, and we need you to take sides on behalf of us, your audience.

There is, right now, only one story worth covering: the open sabotage of the next election by the sitting President of the United States.

There is, as well, only one side to this story — American democracy — and we need you to stop insisting that two sides are required.

You have a vested interest in getting this right. If democracy disappears, the press disappears. Reporters will be the first to be silenced, imprisoned, or executed. This is nothing new. It’s Gestapo 101, and every one of you knows it. We need you to protect us, if for no other reason than to protect yourselves.

This is not a partisan issue, so please stop treating it like one. If this were a wildfire or a flood or a hurricane, you wouldn’t be looking for both sides of the story. This is worse than those things. Millions of lives are at stake. And we need you to report it with the urgency it demands.

You know full well that Trump is all lies, all the time. You know he floods the zone with a nonstop barrage of distractions that are both noisy and obnoxious, but ultimately trivial.

Please stop focusing on what he says, as opposed to what he does. You know these are vastly different things, and that the corruption going on under the radar is far more insidious than the torrent of verbal diarrhea that merely insults our intelligence.

Please stop giving him a megaphone. Fox has already given him the biggest one in the world, and it works just fine without your help. We need you to help separate the real news from the noise, the life-threatening from the merely corrupt.

Please stop chasing shiny objects. Trump’s tweets are rarely the story in themselves, but by amplifying them you make them the story. They almost never have a basis in reality, so please just assume they spring from his current mood or medication level and give them the attention they deserve — zero. When the tweets become the story, you play into his hands, which causes widespread upset for no real reason.

Please stop the both-siderism. We get that objectivity is a cornerstone of journalism, but its limits are being more exposed every day. Balanced reporting is of little use when one side is not just engaged in mass murder and treason, but also has the full throw-weight of the federal government behind it. Objectivity is necessary but not sufficient.

Please stop letting Republican stooges sidestep your questions. Make them defend what they say. Make them go on the record in favor of the things they know full well are corrupt and most likely criminal. If all they can do is stay on message — however false or stupid that message is — make sure your audience understands that. Please don’t let a lie just lie there.

Jay Rosen, professor of journalism at NYU, has long advocated the use of what he calls the “truth sandwich” for dealing with the onslaught of deceit and obfuscation you face. Before quoting any source you know to be lying, write your story so that the lie is “sandwiched” between layers of truth. Write it so that the truth appears first, followed by the quoted lie, followed by an explanation of how that lie is not the truth.

In other words: Here comes a lie, Here’s the lie, Here’s why it’s a lie. This will make it much easier for the rest of us to cut through the bullshit.

Every election in living memory has been covered as if it’s a horse race, where the press makes an endless contest of the leaders, followers, and day-to-day gotchas of the campaign trail. We need this to stop. You know that in a fair election, Trump will be overwhelmingly defeated. That will not change, no matter how much of a horse race you make it. Better to focus on what Republicans, Russians, and corrupt state legislatures are doing to cheat. They're doing it in a hundred ways right now. We need them exposed.

The votes are by now set in stone. Surely everyone has made up their minds — most were made up the day after the 2016 election — and it’s unlikely that any minds will change. If they do, it will be away from Trump, not towards him.

So the horse race has been rendered meaningless. There isn’t one. There’s only the race between democracy and dictatorship. Your stories, from now through November, must illuminate the fight to safeguard a fair election. Whatever's happening, either above board or under the table, we need to know about it.

Trump will not win a free and fair election, but he has everything to lose. He knows he has no choice but to bring down the whole system with him. If he doesn’t, he will either go to prison or to Russia. Neither appeals to him, which makes him desperate and extremely dangerous.

I understand the pressures you’re under. I know you have bosses looking over your shoulder. Many of you report to faceless conglomerates and must measure every word.

But this is what you signed up for, right? A privileged view of a big moment?

We desperately need you to rise to it.


Much of the content in this post is derived from an important article by the aforementioned journalism professor, Jay Rosen of PressThink, a longtime critic of the press. The article is an urgent alarm directed at journalists, exhorting them to — in my words, not his — wake up and smell the fascism. I urge everyone to read it. 

Berkley MI

Friday 08/20/20


Comments

  1. Andy - as always an extremely thoughtful discussion, and one I surely agree with. Maybe you could cut/paste it into Facebook (since it sounds like links don't work) -- I think it would be great to have a wider audience somehow. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love this article Andy! I will share it all over the place. So important and all so scary true! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nicely done. The press just seems to be saying, "who cares." When the woman asked Trump about his lies and he freaked it was wonderful. One of those each time he appears would go a long way to getting rid of him. Trump is dog shit on your shoe. Scrape it off in NOVEMBER.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Guess Where You Can Find the Real Pedophiles

When political discourse turns to pedophilia — which it should never, ever do — it helps to separate fiction from non-fiction. The fictional narrative, widely disseminated by QAnon-addled propagandists, is that the Democratic Party is a vast conspiracy of ravenous child abusers, who just barely managed to cover up Hillary Clinton’s bloodthirsty coven in the basement of a D.C. pizza parlor. The non-fiction narrative — profusely-documented but with a much lower profile — is that both the priesthood of the Catholic Church and the ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) have indulged and protected a stunningly large number of child molesters, and allowed them to enjoy long and predatory careers within their respective churches. In the last few weeks, these two stories flew somewhat under the radar, but both are worth looking at, not so much for the staggering hypocrisy of its characters — hypocrisy fatigue has long since rendered us numb — as for its legal and political i

Sex: The Abortion Origin Story

In the next month, five ultra-Catholic ideologues, unencumbered by any rational thought process, will decide that a fetus has more rights than its mother. When that happens, the legislatures in as many as 26 states will likely enact laws, under which a pregnant woman will, in effect, be legally obligated to carry to term every fetus that takes root in her body. Whether or not she was raped by a stranger, or by her father. Whether or not she miscarries. Whether or not the baby dies in her womb. Whether or not the baby is capable of life outside her womb. Whether or not that baby’s survival is likely to kill her. The rights of her fetus will, apparently in all cases, supercede hers. And her partner’s, too. Because for every beer-soaked asshole who will now be empowered to force his battered wife to carry his baby, there will be hundreds of responsible husbands legally barred from responsibly planning a family, or from ending a family-crippling pregnancy, or from choosing the life

The New York Times Is Doing Us No Favors

I am a life-long customer of The New York Times, and generally a satisfied one. For sheer news-gathering firepower, they continue to stand out in a tarnished but still important field. They’ve covered — or uncovered — virtually every major story of the last century and a half. Their investigative prowess is unquestioned. Plus, they have Paul Krugman on their op-ed page, an invaluable source of level-headed insights on a wide range of subjects. He combines a Nobel-level knowledge of economics with an astute political eye that is almost always dead on. He alone is worth the paywall, at least to me. But with all that said, the Times has lately been pissing me off. They’ve become unreasonably invested in what Krugman himself has decried as “false equivalency” — better known as “both-siderism.” They continue to pretend that our two major parties are equally engaged in reasonable discourse, and are equally responsible for the fractious and violent state of the nation. The Times scrup