The latest mass hysterical meltdown of the Trump era is when the President called the “fake news media” (singling out ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and the New York Times in particular) the “enemy of the American people.”
The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017
Although this was predictably met with an outrage storm and Hitler or Putin analogies, let’s take a look at a few things.
The media is one of the most reviled institutions in America.
Even the Gallup Poll, which is the most generous, shows that only 32% of the American people say they trust the media. Even half of Democrats say they don’t trust it. Young people (who lean more left wing than average) trust the media even less than older people.
If you’re in the media, you can crow and “fact check” about the media not having, as the president said, “a lower approval rating than congress,” but this is a non-productive tangent. It distracts you from the confidence crisis that your industry is in that your honest veterans like John Dickerson have spoken of.
More Americans trust President Trump than the media.
It’s close, but more Americans trust President Trump than they do the media. Depending on which poll you look at, it’s 49-48 or 48-45.
As widely controversial as Donald Trump is, the media is disliked by even more people. Michael Tracey, one of the few honest remaining journalists, said it best:
Finally watched today’s press conference. Amazingly, the media manages to match or exceed Trump in terms of blithering derangement.
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) February 17, 2017
While Michael Tracey sees “derangement” from Donald Trump, I see a highly sophisticated persuasion system that I used to successfully predict his electoral win where the media didn’t. The media acts deranged because they think they see derangement. Nevertheless, that is how a lot of Americans feel – that the media is actually more deranged than a deranged Donald Trump. This is not a position you want to be in if you’re the media.
Here are six ways that the media can get its credibility back and resuscitate itself from the “fake news media” label.
1. Stop the Hysteria Race
Right now, the media is engaged in a perpetual race to see who can produce the most hysterical, preening, outrage. In everything from Russia hysteria to the most hysterical, least charitable interpretation of anything that President Trump says or that comes out of the White House, to rampant and destabilizing speculation, the name of the media game in the age of Trump is to produce the most scandalous, salacious, hysterical story possible and then pare it down or outright refute it later, after the hysterical spread of the fake news.
This current method of operations guarantees two things:
- People trust the media less because of the consistent hoaxes or hysterical inflation of the truth.
- People only have a limited attention span and emotional pool. At some point quickly, the outrage just gets tiring and people need to disconnect. Rapport and trust have been broken, making it far harder for people to believe anything you say in the future. People now just expect outrage from the press and don’t want to catch those negative, dragging, grating emotions.
Stop the outrage train, stop the race to produce the most hysterical stories and headlines, check the story for a day, go to a wide range of sources to comment, and produce the stories in a level, emotionally neutral way, and people will eventually trust the media more over time.
By Ben Garrison
2. Get Off Twitter/Your Phone
Put the device down. Get off Twitter. If you in the media do so, your reporting will be much better. What happens now is “journalists” just sit on Twitter all day and chatter amongst each other. While social media is absolutely great for selling and brand building, I blame it as a key factor in the decline of journalism, as it incentivizes outrage because that’s what spreads. The whole, raw story is far down the list of priorities compared to what gets the most attention and shares. Twitter is the worst offender because of its compact, in-your-face nature.
If the media hates the outrage Donald Trump deliberately induces with his Twitter, it should look in the mirror.
While we can’t turn our backs on social media, professional “journalists” should do their best to consciously counteract the negative incentives it provides. A lot of that just means getting off your phone, getting off Twitter, and finding the full story (see below) before you get back on.
3. Talk to the People, Not Yourselves
Dovetailing with the point above, the internet and social media have made “journalists” more insulated, not less, as a group. They’ve clustered in the few areas you’d expect, all of which have a certain political bent.
Even at Trump’s rallies during the campaign, reporters clustered with one another looking at their phones all the time, not listening to Donald Trump or talking much with the people that actually attended. What listening there had been comprised of hacks like Sopan Deb reverting back to point #1 – combing through the speech to look for the most outrageous thing to inflate. Comparatively little coverage came of Trump’s supporters and what coverage did take place was an armchair psychologizing and pathologizing of these “deplorables.”
Then you wonder why people don’t trust you. If you can’t meet them on their level to build rapport, trust isn’t possible.
“Journalists” need to meet the people on their level. Concentrating in a few enclaves and pathologizing them from there is guaranteed to make the American people see the media as the enemy.
4. Stop Clickbaiting – Language Matters
In a subset of point #1, language matters. Key to the creation of hostilities is the use of buzzwords. Take for instance, the media’s uncritical parroting of anti-Trump factions as “the resistance” while those who opposed President Obama were called “obstructionists.” Ostensibly these two things are essentially the same, but the two words convey far different emotional meanings. This is a ruse through which people easily see, and it corrodes trust further. Many more examples abound.
Report the news in as neutral language as you can use. It’s boring and might not spread as well on social media, but it would at least calm people’s nerves a bit and leave them more open to rapport and trust.
5. Stop Colluding
The old media hates Wikileaks for a reason. It not only gives people the raw deal without slant or buzzword bullshit or hearsay, but it also showed in the past year just how in the tank for the establishment the entrenched news organizations really are. Why do certain figures always get positive (or at least less negative) coverage over others? Why were opponents of President Obama called “obstructionists” but President Trump’s opponents are called “the resistance?” Why does it seem that the entire industry has spells where they coalesce around certain words and themes like “violence at Trump rallies,” “fake news,” “Russia hacked the election,” etc., in what looks more like an ad campaign than news reporting?
Wikileaks showed us why. “Journalists” collude with the subjects of their own reporting and each other to push narratives, not news. That’s why they hate Wikileaks, when in fact, Wikileaks has done far more credible journalism than any of them in the past few years.
If the news industry wants trust back, do what Wikileaks does. Give us the raw deal and let us see for ourselves and make up our own minds. Stop the spin. That also means…
6. Report the Whole Story
Did you know that there have been massive riots in Paris this month by “refugees” and “migrants?” If not, it may not be your fault, because these events haven’t been reported very much. There was a riot against Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley this month where women were pepper sprayed and beaten bloody with rods by feral thugs. None of the major Sunday morning political shows reported on this politically motivated terrorist attack. Crimes by “refugees” go unreported or underreported as a matter of policy in many countries. Wikileaks just dropped a massive bombshell revealing attempted CIA espionage in the 2012 French presidential election, showing that not even America’s closest allies are safe from the Deep State. I’ll bet we won’t hear much about these confirmed documents in comparison to the allegations about “Russian interference” that still don’t go beyond hearsay.
The news industry wants the people to trust it and not to call it “fake news?” Start reporting the whole story of what’s going on, not keeping the focus on your pet narrative.
If you in the industry do these six things, you’ll get your esteem back. You won’t be treated as an enemy of the American people. If you don’t you’ll only continue to be disregarded and scorned.
In its current state the old media is an enemy of the American people because it’s dangerously polarizing the country with factionalism and discord. This was a key factor that led to hostilities in my upcoming epic war story, The Red War and while fictional, it is a story based on history and human nature, which you in the news clearly don’t understand.
To get yourself better acquainted with what actually influences people and builds trust, read Stumped because President Trump is better at the game than you are.