Recently, I had several listeners to my radio show express how shocked and disappointed they were because I was not taking the allegations concerning Donald Trump seriously. The salacious claims were made in a 35-page “dossier” that was never verified as anything but nasty rumors. Due to a number of reporters with professional standards below that of tabloid contributor, some people take what has been unproven as fact. That’s exactly why some in the press threw it out there; just to see what sticks. And that’s why the media needs a “time-out.”
The lack of professionalism by the media is appalling. For media outlets such as BuzzFeed and CNN to report something completely unproven about President-elect Trump, and for a CNN reporter to throw a temper tantrum about it in a presidential news conference, is unacceptable. What is their motive in reporting fake news? I agree with Vice President-elect Pence that their goal is to discredit the Trump presidency, no matter what the cost—even for the price of their integrity.
As a young news reporter in Detroit, where feisty politicians often seemed to enjoy sparring with the press, it was a diversion tactic. Reporters who lost their cool ended up being the center of the story. This was also the case with the President-elect’s first news conference and, as a result, real news suffered. The reporter believed he was justified in rudely criticizing the President-elect for not taking his question. He attempted to make the President-elect look like the bad guy.
As someone who has spent 36 years as a reporter, anchor, media consultant, and now a nationally syndicated talk show host, I think now is a good time for a media “time-out.” Coaches and parents call “time-outs” with a purpose of reflecting upon what just happened, why it happened, and how things can change. If I were White House Media Queen for a day, below are a few of the suggestions I would make:
- Give Them a Time-Out: You act like a child; you’ll be treated as a child. Continuing to yell louder didn’t get the reporter his way. Did the CNN reporter really think that Trump was going to allow him to ask his question if he kept raising his voice even louder? Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested the reporter and his network be given a six-month suspension from White House briefings. Booting them from the briefings is not a bad idea. Rude, unprofessional media grandstanding should not be tolerated. The media, naturally, is not going to applaud such disciplinary measures.
- Break up the Old Boys and Girls Club: Who says it has to be the same old song and dance? Why not mix it up a bit? Give other hard-working journalists a chance—those who actually report real (versus fake) news. President-elect Donald Trump’s team is considering tossing the White House press corps out of the White House to allow more media members to cover the Trump administration.
- Initiate a Code of Conduct for Press Briefings: Given the unprofessional decorum that’s been displayed, the incoming administration needs to set some standards. The President-elect can take questions from whomever he likes. It’s his news conference. Let’s not forget, he is, in fact, about to become the most powerful person on the planet. It’s quite shocking, and sad really, that the new White House Press Secretary needed to remind reporters of basic common courtesies, and that they’ll be shown the door if they don’t abide.
- Increase the Social Media Presence: If this election has proven anything, it’s that social media is one of the most effective ways to bypass the media and reach the American people directly. If the mainstream media realize they’re not the only information game in town, then maybe they’ll up their reporting game and actually do their job, as opposed to constantly promoting their specific agendas.
While time-outs and etiquette lessons for the media may sound extreme, given the pathetic condition of American journalism, we need to raise the bar. People make life decisions based upon what is reported in the news. The American people deserve the truth. Without an honest press, without truth, we all suffer greatly, the media included.