In his must-read Politico Magazine column published on Tuesday, National Review editor Rich Lowry doled out some advice for hyperventilating journalists over President-elect Trump blasting their profession (like this week when BuzzFeed News published the salacious dossier).
Lowry began with the simple admission that BuzzFeed’s decision to publish the unsubstantiated dossier was by far “[t]he best thing that happened to Donald Trump all week” because “in the media’s ongoing fight with Donald Trump,” the site’s “incredible act of journalistic irresponsibility represented the press leading with its chin.”
With that in mind, Lowry pointed out the obvious that “Trump thrives off of media hostility” and the media’s incoherence has only further eroded the public’s trust in the press. But then came BuzzFeed’s jaw-dropping story:
BuzzFeed played right into his hands. There are legitimate questions raised about how determined Trump has been to ignore evidence of Russia’s hacking operations prior to the election. But BuzzFeed did more to obscure and discredit these questions than Trump Tower could ever hope to. By publishing the uncorroborated dossier, BuzzFeed has associated the Russia issue with fantastical rumors and hearsay.
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Lowry continued, blasting BuzzFeed News’s pathetic “decision to post the document has to be considered another chapter in the ongoing saga of the media and Democrats losing their collective minds.”
Next, the conservative writer made a masterful point that few (if any) in the media have acknowledged, which is that “[i]f the election had gone the other way, it is hard to see BuzzFeed publishing a 35-page document containing unverified, lurid allegations about President-elect Hillary Clinton that it didn’t consider credible.”
“This was an anti-Trump decision, pure and simple. It created a media firestorm, but everyone should realize by now that media firestorms are Trump’s thing,” Lowry added.
Going briefly to the media’s friends in the Democratic Party, Lowry observed that they “have done themselves no favors by implicitly refusing to accept the election results after browbeating Trump for months to accept the results in advance.”
As for journalists fearful that the Trump administration will hunt them down, Lowry offered some well-needed advice:
And if the press is going to lower its standards in response to Trump, it will diminish and discredit itself more than the president-elect.
For all that Trump complains about negative press coverage, he wants to be locked in a relationship of mutual antagonism with the media. It behooves those journalists who aren’t partisans and reflexive Trump haters to avoid getting caught up in this dynamic. If they genuinely want to be public-spirited checks on Trump, they shouldn’t be more bitterly adversarial, but more responsible and fair.
Lowry also simply suggested that “[t]his means taking a deep breath” in addition to “not treating every Trump tweet as a major news story.”
Further, he keenly ruled that Trump should be covered “more as a ‘normal’ president rather than as a constant clear and present danger to the republic” which only further undermines the media’s credibility if they’re beside themselves over the President-elect’s every action.
“It means going out of the way to focus on substance rather than the controversy of the hour (while Trump did a fine job shaming reporters at his news conference, he was notably weak on the details on how he wants to replace Obamacare). It means a dose of modesty about how the media has lost the public’s trust, in part because of its bias and self-importance,” Lowry added.
Despite these excellent recommendations, Lowry’s conclusion has a lot of merit (especially anyone with experience in covering the media):
None of this is a particularly tall order. Yet it’s unlikely to happen, even if it was encouraging that so many reporters opposed BuzzFeed’s decision. The press and Trump will continue to be at war, although only one party to the hostilities truly knows what he is doing, and it shows.