Eight Years Later, the Media Rediscovers Its Job
Earlier this week, Andrew Kugle of the Washington Free Beacon compiled quotes from some mainstream journalists who've been lavishing praise on themselves and their profession for the hard-hitting reporting surrounding the Michael Flynn controversy:
"This is a big moment for investigative journalism," CNN host Brian Stelter said.
"It's the leaks and great journalism that lead to what we are talking about," CNN host Brooke Baldwin said.
"Others might be looking at it as the press having scored some points against this White House," CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson said.
"What we are seeing play out on the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post, that's real journalism. That's real reporting. And that's a real public service to this country," columnist Mike Barnicle said.
Doyle McManus of the Los Angles Times expressed similar pride a couple of weeks earlier, when he hailed the tenacity of journalists who were aggressively challenging the Trump administration on baseless claims regarding the presidential inauguration crowd size and widespread voter fraud.
"Serious, solid journalism is coming back into fashion," McManus wrote in his piece.
Personally, I find it exciting to hear that serious journalism is back; a free press is vital to our democratic republic, after all. But such a declaration begs an obvious question: Where had it been over the past eight years?
Make no mistake about it: a National Security Advisor misleading top-level White House officials over communications he had with Russian diplomats is a big story — one that brings up additional questions. It doesn't rise to the level of 9/11 or Pearl Harbor (as Thomas Friedman ridiculously claimed the other day), but it's important. That importance was illustrated by the fact that the president forced Flynn to resign.
But as we scroll through Google News and notice multiple headlines (from major publications) reading "What Did Trump Know, and When Did He Know It?" we might want to ponder how rarely that question was asked of President Obama during controversies surrounding his administration.
Was the mainstream media interested in what Obama knew of the 2012 Benghazi attacks, and when he knew it? If so, it wasn't apparent in the reporting. This information was of particular importance because the public statements that came out of the administration (and the arrest of a filmmaker in California) didn't gel with U.S. intelligence reports and the timeline of events on the ground in Libya. Provably false rhetoric was used in the weeks heading into a tight presidential election, during which the president was campaigning on his anti-terror successes, but somehow the story just wasn't worthy of serious journalism.
What did Obama know about ISIS after he pulled all U.S. troops out of Iraq, and when did he know the terrorist group was more than just a "J.V. team"? Fox News was asking those questions several months before the vast majority of the mainstream media ever lifted an eyebrow.
Did journalists ever ask Obama when it was he knew that practically every promise he had made to the American people about Obamacare was either false or mathematically implausible? Not than I can recall.
When it was discovered that there was indeed at least a "smidgen of corruption" in the IRS's targeting of conservative groups, was Obama aggressively pressed by the media to answer for it? Of course not.
"Serious, solid journalism," as McManus phrased it, largely went on hiatus during the Obama era. There were a few good apples, but such people were very much the exception...not the rule.
Most journalists were simply too invested in their progressive hero's success and historical legacy to serve the American public in the way they're supposed to. Thus, their self-congratulatory fervor over Trump is almost too much to take. The mere fact that some of these people are acknowledging a new era of credibility, now that Obama has left office, illustrates how unacceptably far their profession has fallen.
Putting the Obama argument aside for a moment, the media absolutely should be asking tough, probing questions of the Trump administration. After all, our new president isn't any less deceitful than our previous one. Journalists botched the last eight years of their responsibility to the public, but that doesn't mean they should do the same for the next four.
Based on their past, however, it would be nice if these people spared us their sanctimony and pearl-clutching every time Trump calls them "fake news." There's a reason that phrase resonates with people, and it has less to do with Trump than it does those covering him.