Trump could make the press great again, all they have to do is their jobs

The media made Trump: he's the perfect, click-driving mashup of fearmongering and demagoguery, and if it bleeds, it leads.

Dan Gillmor — journalism, media theorist, journalism critic — proposes that a press that did its job, aggressively pursuing Trump's claims and holding him to account for his public utterances, would take great strides back toward its role as a force for truth and justice. The status quo today is the "view from nowhere," in which all claims have to be played out as a he said/she said, without the press taking a position as to who might be more credible, reality-based and correct. That's the attitude that gave us disastrous foreign wars, climate change denial, and vaccine denial, and its the deference that gave us Trump, too.

The right response, however, would take most political reporters and editors out of their comfort zones, where they profess what my friend, the press critic and reviewer Jay Rosen, calls the "view from nowhere"—being above it all, and opting not to know or care who's telling the truth. Reporters behave as if they have an absurd obligation to let politicians attack fundamental liberties, without which robust journalism can't exist in the first place, without pushing back. Issues such as freedom of expression, freedom to associate, and more are in jeopardy in an era of pervasive surveillance and increasingly centralized control of technology and communications. If they want to keep their jobs, journalists have to be activists on these very issues, and shouldn't call themselves journalists if they don't.

Media people should see candidate extremism as an opportunity, not a dilemma. "Trump may well represent one moment where clickbait and accountability journalism form a partnership," Erik Wemple, Washington Post media critic, wrote a few days ago. "To understand Trump's wide-ranging awfulness, after all, you need to present wide-ranging coverage." (A comedian recently made a good-faith effort to do just that.)

So what should journalists do about Trump? They should do their jobs.

Donald Trump Could Make the Media Great Again
[Dan Gillmor/Zocalo]

(Image: Donald Trump, Gage Skidmore, CC-BY-SA)