Former ABC Reporter Sherr: Don’t Even Cover Trump’s ‘Garbage,’ Don’t Bother With Balance

Veteran former ABC reporter Lynn Sherr pleaded with her fellow journalists: Stop doing journalism on Donald Trump when he and his spokespeople are only “spewing garbage” anyway! In her Friday post at the site run by left-wing public television omnipresence Bill Moyers, Sherr also actively discouraged practicing balanced journalism when it comes to the president, a la Jim Rutenberg’s front-page editorial for the New York Times during the campaign.

Dear esteemed colleagues, former colleagues and other members of the responsible media I’ve never met:

I am not being sarcastic. Honest. I respect your work and I know that you -- we -- are the only thing that has ever stood between a robust democracy and the hydra-headed evils of corruption, greed, incompetence and ignorance. Not to mention the hypocrisy of lies and self-aggrandizement from an unrelenting narcissist with no ability to temper his own apparent madness.

Sure, it’s important to remind the American people that the president and his staff have little contact with reality. But don’t give them the free ride of repeating the lie.

(It’s ironic that this rant appears on the website of Bill Moyers, proud press manipulator as press secretary to Lyndon Baines Johnson, a leader who was no slouch at lying.

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I know that many of you are working god-awful hours to chronicle the absurdity and malevolence of this administration. I believe that you care deeply about your responsibility to the American public to convey the truth.

But I beg you to consider a new approach to our critical profession. I urge you, in the face of what may be the scariest threat yet to our civility as a nation and our freedom as individuals, to consider a new tactic in covering the current presidency.

Specifically, stop reporting everything they say or do.

Stop repeating -- gratuitously -- the lies (or the fantasies). Stop reupping the ante. Stop restoking the flames of idiocy.

Stop seeking an Oval Office reaction to every misstep.

Case in point: the president’s insistence that his predecessor wiretapped his phones.

The claim was absurd from first tweet, but of course we needed evidence, so those initial reports were probably necessary. But when the Senate Intelligence Committee and the (Republican) Speaker of the House said Thursday that no such evidence existed, the story was over. Done. Finished. Or should have been.

....

Sure, it’s important to remind the American people that the president and his staff have little contact with reality. But don’t give them the free ride of repeating the lie.

And yes, I know, he’s the president, and they’re all the president’s men. Don’t they have to be covered?

Well, no.

Not if they’re saying nothing new.

Not if they’re spewing garbage.

Not if the incoherence is so apparent even they can make jokes about it.

Sherr then came out for interpreting the news, as opposed to merely reporting what was happening (one doesn't have to imagnie which way the slant would run in Sherr’s ideal journalistic world -- we're quite close to it today):

Back in the 1970s, as a correspondent for WCBS-TV News in New York, I had a smart colleague who used to flesh out every news conference he covered with actual facts -- where the speaker was right, and where wrong. “We’re not human microphone stands,” he’d say, belligerently and accurately, frustrating an earlier generation of New York politicians.

Sherr again came out against the journalistic ideal of balance, lame denials aside.

Another sensible reporter from those early days, fed up with the insistence on granting equal time to often irrelevant opposing arguments, used to call what we were asked to do “the delicatessen style of reporting -- a quarter-pound of this, a quarter-pound of that,” even when the two kinds of baloney weren’t of equal value. It made for a good kosher sandwich, but sometimes, not very significant journalism.

Look, I’m not talking about replacing fairness with bias here; nor about trading ice cream for broccoli. And plenty of reporters are, finally, labelling the lies. But pulling back on the repetition -- the facile regurgitation of everything from “populist president” to “brilliant businessman” to, well, making America “great” again -- and refusing to headline their version of the facts, might, in fact, free up time to report on things that matter.

By all means, keep up the pressure with stories on Russian influence and financial gain until we get some answers. Just Say No to the addictive nonsense.

Bias by Omission New York Times Lynn Sherr Bill Moyers Donald Trump
Clay Waters's picture