September 1 I reported The Trump Foundation IRS Penalty Raises More Questions, an expansion on the same day’s article by the Washington Post. I fully expected to every mainstream media outlet to pick up the story and run with it, because of the blatant nature of this negligence/fraud/probable crime. And yes, I’m going to use the word crime. This reeks all over the place.
I’ve watched the news directly from the sources on Twitter since then, waiting for someone, anyone to run with this. Smaller outlets like ours have reported, and it has moved up now to Talking Points Memo with Josh Marshall, and he and his team are working as hard as they can. But as he pointed out, they have twelve people on their edit staff, as compared to 1300 at the New York Times. Their ability to investigate is obviously pretty limited. However, they have already proven that Trump lied today regarding having had a conversation with Bondi about the suit.
We rely on the large outlets to do the heavy lifting, like the deep investigative work that WaPo conducted here. People like us can offer different perspectives, and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to give mine directly to a reporter at the Times.
- If a $25k payment was issued to a charity, how did the FL Attorney General receive it?
- Who signed the check? There had to be a second person involved.
- Why was there a third entity involved/on the books?
The response was pretty standard. “All good questions. NYT did excellent Trump U Pieces. We need to follow up on WaPo excellent piece on Florida and Trump Foundation. As I say, a story we should follow.”
Well, it’s been four days, and not a single large mainstream media outlet has said a word. We have, however, been subject to even more headlines about non-stories on the Clinton Foundation, where no actual evidence of wrongdoing has been found (BUT OPTICS), and Secretary Clinton’s health (COUGH!), because NBC has now sunk to a new journalistic low.
My takeaway for myself: So what are we to do? How much can we rely on the mainstream media? This is really only the beginning. I am not proposing a blackout, or a boycott, or any other type of tantrum. I do think we should be educated, though, and try to understand what is happening and why, who owns whom, what the relationships are, and take each source with the proper dose of salt.
My message as a consumer to the media: You’re delegitimizing yourselves. Refusal to even consider that you have room for improvement here is documented. You are being scooped by TPM, smaller outlets, by days; you are not covering these stories at all. Experienced, retired, journalists are telling you this, and either you do not care, or you are that obtuse. Both of those are terrifying. However, there are great sources that exist and are ready to step up. The ball is in your court, and you can fix it, or you can fade into obscurity. You can be relevant or not. It is just as easy for me to go to TPM or NYT thanks to the web. Remember that. Your reputation is what you have – or had – and it is your choice. But I should not be handing your reporters questions to ask on a Washington Post story from 9/1. Yet, that’s the NYT in 2016. This is not liberal vs. conservative, reality vs. NYT. It is journalism vs. NYT. It is credibility vs. NYT. It is EVERYTHING vs. NYT. And frankly, this applies to all of the large outlets, including CBS, MSNBC, CNN, and FOX (lol).
My still evolving plan includes:
- Determine what sources are reliable, based on past and present performance, ownership, and relationships.
- Look at the current news and determine what stories are not being covered; elevate those.
- Look at the current news and determine what stories have been corrected but not reported widely; elevate those.
- Point out news outlets compromised by lawsuits or threats of lawsuits.
- Ask for feedback from readers.
There have been several important events in history that have definitive media failures, such as “Dewey Defeats Truman.” I think it’s pretty safe to say the 2016 Election Coverage is already taking its place in that history.