The Trump-Inspired crisis in the US Media

As the large swath of the USA formerly known by the city elites as "the flyover zone" continues to gloat at Donald Trump's ascendancy to the White House, the mainstream media are feeling his "shoot the messenger" strategy like an NRA bullet to the stomach.

Despite the reassuring emails calling for journalistic vigilence in the face of the presidential assault to the cable news and big paper troops from their ethics experts and supervisors, his central message that they are "the enemy of the American people" is hurting. They scramble to hire more fact-checkers to prove on an hourly basis that it's HIS news, not theirs, which is "fake". And while a twitter-based #nottheenemy campaign might go some way to soothing the scribes' egos, it is not likely to resonate with Trump believers.

Unfortunately for the journalism profession here, while the President's ability to turn critical global information into a factually challenged playground slanging-match is rousing his supporters anew, the media does have a problem - and it is the same issue which brought down Hillary's Democrats.

Much of "Middle America" exists in a parallel universe to the adrenalin-fueled lives of many of the coastal citizens of New York, Washington, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

The default news channel in most of the bars of small-town America is Fox News. The New York Times and Washington Post are harder to obtain in many places than back-issues of The World. Only USA Today's circulation model succeeds in delivering a truly national newspaper to the masses in the middle.

The rolling panels of recurring evening pundits on CNN and MSNBC, in which the group usually consists of one Trump apologist surrounded by critics, certainly don't have the appearance of fairness.

The Dean of the Trump defenders is long-time conservative-turned-pundit Jeffrey Lord.


During his almost hourly appearances on CNN, he's often pitted against four, five or six accusers. Regardless of the obviously outrageous and, at best, bombastic behavior of the President, it sure doesn't LOOK good for balance.

Following the election, New York Times' Public Editor reflected on the paper's coverage: "The national desk of The Times has correspondents around the country, and they filed a steady stream of compelling stories from voters between coastal America. And yet between the horse race and the campaign drama, much of their work was simply drowned out." It seems as the drama continues beyond the inauguration, so the drowning of the words continues along with it.

The elite city perspective brought the democrats down - refusing to believe the less-heard had deeper and different concerns, and were so fed up with the status quo that they were prepared to subscribe to a confused vision of unfulfillable promises offered by a narcissistic outsider. The erstwhile trusted media is in danger of going down the same road, if they don't start listening to the heartland. In all this, I believe there is one single, and cutting, statement Trump has made to his supporters about the mainstream media reporting that happens to be true: "It's their agenda, it's not your agenda". Time to look at that agenda, and draw the real stories from the disaffected.

Mark McDonald is a former BBC World News Producer who leads Washington DC-based Birkdale Media, a coaching and consulting group in media and communications for non-profits, international organizations, and business entrepreneurs.


Mark McDonald

Consultant, International Media and Communications

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