Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Contrary to Trump's Assertions, Reporters Do Not Feel 'Able to Write Whatever They Want to Write'

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Contrary to Trump's Assertions, Reporters Do Not Feel 'Able to Write Whatever They Want to Write'

Article excerpt

The Los Angeles Times (among many other papers) reports that, during a media availability while meeting in the Oval Office with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Donald Trump said that "it is frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write."

The current incumbent must be brilliant in some way that I am unable to appreciate or am not used to describing as brilliant. After all, as he would gladly remind me if he knew I existed, he's president and I'm not. Point taken.

In order to understand his brilliance better, I think I would need to know much more about several areas of psychology, mass psychology, individual psychology, and aberrant psychology. But, from my modest post as a scribbler I can relate to him only by noting what he does and says and tweets. (He says and tweets a lot more than he does.) And I do try to figure him out and occasionally cling to some crumb of hope that he's not as bad and dangerous as he often seems (at least to me).

But from what he says and tweets and does, he seems to put himself in a poor position to render judgment about who does or doesn't write (or say) whatever they want to write (or say).

Not meaning to brag (and certainly acknowledging that Trump knows more about several subjects than I do) I do have a lifetime's experience in the craft of journalism. Most of it (before I somehow lucked into my current fabulous gig) was spent as a real reporter writing fact-filled news stories in a so-called objective voice at three newspapers over 35 years. And I can tell you (and I would tell him, if he gave me a call) that reporters for respectable news outlets are incredibly, insanely committed to factual accuracy and do not write "whatever they want to write" unless they have good reason to believe it is factual.

So I know this: Reporters do not feel "able to write whatever they want to write," and they certainly don't feel able to report falsehoods as if they were facts.

Get your facts right is basically the first five priorities of regular, old-fashioned news reporters. Before you get to worrying about how to express them, and which ones to put first, you must be factually accurate. If you get a fact wrong and someone reports you to the editor or ombudsman, you will end up having to go through the odious and humiliating (but necessary) process of admitting your factual errors and correcting them.

And let me get this out before I lose you: Presidents are also supposed to tell the truth. They don't always do it, but they are supposed to, and if they don't tell the truth it's the news media's job to point it out and say what the truth is - although, if we're going to be painstakingly correct about it, it's their job to say what the facts are, and leave the search for "truth" to the philosophers. …

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