Monday, November 21, 2016

Trump will hasten mainstream media's demise

I don't think anyone would seriously disagree that the coverage of the US presidential election campaign was, to say the least, unbalanced. Many of the election night commentators looked dismayed at Trump's victory and some, like MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, broke down at the result. The campaign itself was reported in the most one-sided manner with even the editor of the Clinton-supporting New York Times showing remarkable self-awareness after the election by penning a letter to his readers that was as close to a mea culpa as any newspaper editor ever concedes.

Trump realised early on in his campaign that the mainstream media were his enemy and he capitalised on that enmity, using them to pour fuel on the fire of his more outrageous comments when he wanted to and talking above them directly to the electorate we they weren't serving his purposes. I believe the American public were equally dismissive of the media, understanding only too well their biases and making allowances for that when reading reports of Trump's excesses. The media was trapped in an echo-chamber of their own making, feeding off their biases and believing their own hype, unable to discern what was really going on in the electorate.

It is already apparent that a Trump presidency will have a different relationship with the media. Trump does not accept that the media should have privileged access to him, his family and his staff, as demonstrated by his refusal to allow the press to accompany him on his first visit to the White House and to a private dinner. The media has responded to their exclusion by writing an open letter to Trump stating that 'we expect the traditions of White House press coverage to be upheld whether in Washington or elsewhere.' The arrogant tone of the letter shows that these fools don't get it - their world has tilted on its axis and will never be the same again. The very idea of an establishment media, the so-called 'fourth estate', is dead and will never be resurrected. You would think they would have got the message with the appointment of Stephen Bannon, the head of the popular 'alt-right' website Breitbart News, as a senior counsellor to the president-elect. Breitbart founder Andrew Breitbart said when establishing his site that it was 'committed to the destruction of the old media guard'.

The mainstream media's disease is terminal. The New York Times, one of the world's biggest newspapers in terms of circulation, is barely profitable, and here in New Zealand our two largest dailies need to merge in order to survive. Television networks like our TVNZ are in financial freefall. They deserve their fate, having long since given up (if they ever had) any semblance of journalistic independence and integrity. Trump will just hasten their demise.

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