Talk is cheap, the saying goes. Sure, we all believe our thoughts are priceless wisdom. Everyone else’s? How quickly do you flip your thumb over your social media feed? Exactly.
You know what costs — not just in terms of money, but time and grit? Solid information. Pure, distilled data arranged in order of importance for people who need it. That’s the opposite of talk. That’s actually the very definition of news judgment.
I watched teachers in journalism classes, editors at newspapers, summoning reporters and demanding the words “I” and “me” struck from copy. Entire articles rewritten from scratch because the writer had instilled opinion in the copy. Oh, and those arguments got ugly, but the editor pretty much always won. Because the writer was often fighting for himself. The editor was fighting for the reputation of the newspaper.
We’ll get to why the reputation of the news outlet matters in a moment.
The point is that CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta does absolutely none of this. I didn’t like his press pass being revoked by the Trump administration. Having said that, the idea that Acosta is some sort of champion of the press is completely ridiculous.
When I was a reporter, you weren’t supposed to care about me. (I must say, I accomplished that goal.) You, rightfully, are supposed to care about what matters to you. That is supposedly one of the pillars that builds trust between news outlets and news consumers. Hi, I put this together for your benefit. To show it was for your benefit, I took great efforts not to try to persuade you to see things my way. These are the facts. Make up your own mind.
My job was to break stories.
When was the last time Acosta broke a story? One that wasn’t about “Trump was a big orange meanie to me”?
Because Acosta doesn’t break stories. He seeks to be the story, which is repugnant to any legitimate reporter. President Trump is a grandstanding blowhard. Having another grandstanding blowhard in the room is not a solution to anyone’s need for information. It’s pablum. It’s foolishness. Somebody had to be the adult in the room and it damn sure wasn’t either of them.
Where were the editors to tell Acosta he had to be the adult in the room? That he had to be professional? They were nowhere to be found because, as has been painfully obvious, CNN has abandoned journalistic ethics — which requires hard work — for cheap talk.
As such, CNN’s reputation has been wounded by not just the viewing public but within the journalism industry itself. Ted Koppel, who turned “Nightline” into a must-watch news show even though it was late at night, told CNN it “would be in the toilet without Donald Trump. You can’t do without Donald Trump. You would be lost without Donald Trump.”
Bob Woodward, whose work with Carl Bernstein actually did take down an American president when he worked with the Washington Post, has chided modern reporters for having too much of an “emotional reaction” to Trump.
CNN founder Ted Turner had bemoaned how the network has gotten too far from reporting and too deeply into political punditry.
Not to mention punditry allows the president to use the press as a foil to stir up his own base supporters. As such, the reputation of the press outlet goes down and people seek their information elsewhere. People aren’t as gullible as you think. They do catch on to phonies. A Pew Research Center poll indicates that more than two-thirds of Americans believe the press is slanted in its coverage.
CNN doesn’t seek to correct this. Acosta embraced it.
Why do facts matter more than opinion? Had the national press actually done a thorough job of vetting the Bush administration’s evidence of weapons of mass destruction, perhaps we don’t invade Iraq. But we didn’t have reporters in Washington. We had pundits. What was the inevitable result of a government unchecked by vigorous reporting? Bombs away!
Do you really want to know how you get to Trump and press secretary Sarah Sanders? You break stories and then blitz the White House. Look back to Woodward and Bernstein. Do you think Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler looked forward to meeting the reporters with the latest surprise about Watergate?
But no, to Jim Acosta, it’s much more satisfying to just hog the mic with nothing but his opinions to guide him. That doesn’t make him a champion of the First Amendment. That makes him no different than Sean Hannity.
So to repeat to the overly sensitive, I did not write that I approve of the dude’s credential being revoked. The White House shouldn’t have done that.
CNN should have taken it from Acosta long ago.