Do you think that the mainstream media is so obsessed over President Donald Trump that they neglect a lot of the news that they should be covering? Congratulations! Even a former NBC News correspondent who quit his job last week agrees with you.
The correspondent in question is William Arkin who left NBC News due to his disgust that the MSM in general is so involved in the "Trump Circus" that they are failing to cover important news especially involving foreign affairs. He explained the reasons for his departure to Brian Stelter on CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday.
BRIAN STELTER: I love a good goodbye note, and this one was remarkable. 2,200-word memo from veteran military analyst William Arkin. He sent it to his colleagues at NBC a few days ago explaining why Friday was his last day at the network. Arkin's worked with NBC on and off for three decades, but he described in his memo a national news media held hostage by Trump, obsessed with the Trump circus, and failing to cover the perpetual wars that America is engaged in.
But he wasn't just criticizing NBC. Far from it his critique really applied to the mainstream media in America as a whole. So Arkin is here now for his first interview since departing NBC. Bill, thanks for joining me.
Of course, the criticism also applied to the Trump obsessed CNN in particular.
WILLIAM ARKIN: Thanks, Brian, for having me on.
STELTER: I don't want to summarize the memo anymore because I want to hear from you directly. I think what you're bringing up that's most important is the way the American news media does or does not cover the forever wars that we are engaged in. What do we need to do differently?
ARKIN: Well, we need to have Trump free days. We need to have actual investigative correspondence working on actual investigations. We need to have some courage to criticize the military and criticize the national security community. And I think part of what happens when you're involved in the circus on a day-to-day basis is that you don't have an opportunity to develop the kind of deep sources that are necessary to do these investigations to actually get beyond the spokesman to get beyond the congressional critics. And by not being able to develop those sources, I think ultimately you can't report the story as deeply as it needs to be reported.
STELTER: And that's because so much of the oxygen is sucked up by Trump.
To be more accurate, Brian, that's because much of the oxygen is sucked up by CNN's obsession with Trump resulting in the neglect of much important news.
ARKIN: Well, I don't think it's just the oxygen being sucked up by Trump, I also think it's the nature of the T.V. world these days, it's the nature of social media. We just don't give enough credit to experts, to academics, to people who night might not be so conversant with T.V., who can't talk quickly, who can't give the soundbite. We just don't have them on.
I mean, when I started in the world of television, we had a hell of a lot more academics professors, experts on. And today we basically given up on that. Journalists are the ones who speak and journalists are not necessarily the most skilled or the most expert in terms of talking about foreign affairs.
Good point. And now Arkin goes into the taboo territory of (GASP!) agreeing with Trump:
ARKIN: ...We're at war and we have been at war for 18 years and we essentially do not pay attention to it right now until the president tweets something or until there's a catastrophic industrial accident or a human tragedy. But on a day to day basis we're spending hundreds of billions of dollars and we are mucking around in all parts of the world and frankly when Donald Trump says why are we in Syria or what are we doing in Africa or can't we change the situation in North Korea, I'm sympathetic to him. I would just like to have a more intelligent debate about those very issues.
Of course, Stelter could not let that go by unchallenged:
STELTER: The way he does it for example in Syria seems bumbling. He said we're going to do it right away, 30 days, now he says that's not the case. That's a mess. But you're saying his overarching point may be really important to take seriously and not just assume it's wrong.
ARKIN: Well, I think we just have a knee-jerk reaction to Donald Trump in the case of Syria and James Mattis' resignation as Secretary of Defense. The immediate response was protocol was broken. It wasn't done in the right way. The contract didn't have all the right words in it. The President didn't give the proper notification of the allies, etcetera, etcetera. Yes, OK, the guy just does not know how to sit down at the table in the right way. We all know that by now.
But the truth of the matter is most Americans couldn't articulate if -- for their life why we're in Syria or what we're accomplishing there. And so I think that the fact that the President brings it up and that even the Secretary of Defense says he is resigning because of Syria, it's like no, I don't really believe it anymore. I want deeper reporting to understand what's really going on here. Trump did the wrong thing in not consulting with the allies, in not listening to his advisers. I accept that. But at the same time, I want deep reporting to understand the issues. I don't want to just gloss over the surface.
It is enlightening to read Arkin's farewell note to NBC News. He obviously is no fan of Trump but is highly critical of the MSM obsession with him to the detriment of their general news coverage. Here are a few highlights:
January 4 is my last day at NBC News and I'd like to say goodbye to my friends, hopefully not for good. This isn't the first time I've left NBC, but this time the parting is more bittersweet, the world and the state of journalism in tandem crisis. My expertise, though seeming to be all the more central to the challenges and dangers we face, also seems to be less valued at the moment. And I find myself completely out of synch with the network, being neither a day-to-day reporter nor interested in the Trump circus.
...In our day-to-day whirlwind and hostage status as prisoners of Donald Trump, I think -- like everyone else does -- that we miss so much. People who don't understand the medium, or the pressures, loudly opine that it's corporate control or even worse, that it's partisan. Sometimes I quip in response to friends on the outside (and to government sources) that if they mean by the word partisan that it is New Yorkers and Washingtonians against the rest of the country then they are right.
For me I realized how out of step I was when I looked at Trump's various bumbling intuitions: his desire to improve relations with Russia, to denuclearize North Korea, to get out of the Middle East, to question why we are fighting in Africa, even in his attacks on the intelligence community and the FBI. Of course he is an ignorant and incompetent impostor. And yet I'm alarmed at how quick NBC is to mechanically argue the contrary, to be in favor of policies that just spell more conflict and more war. Really? We shouldn't get out Syria? We shouldn't go for the bold move of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula? Even on Russia, though we should be concerned about the brittleness of our democracy that it is so vulnerable to manipulation, do we really yearn for the Cold War? And don't even get me started with the FBI: What? We now lionize this historically destructive institution?
Yeah, agreeing with Trump in any way definitely puts you "out of step" with the rest of the MSM. Oh, and calling Trump an "ignorant and incompetent impostor" is probably not enough for you to get off the hook of being accused of heresy.