July 28, 2017

Beat the press (at your own peril)

In a recent speech, Breitbart political editor Matt Boyle said, "The goal eventually is the full destruction and elimination of the entire mainstream media. We envision a day when CNN is no longer in business. We envision a day when the New York Times closes its doors. I think that day is possible."

Well, that's just wonderful. Do certain righties realize how hot the iron they're playing with is? How few empty chambers are in the gun they're playing Russian roulette with?

Admittedly, we all get frustrated with our current 'information rich' environment ('garbage' and several other words I am not allowed to use here could also substitute for 'information').

The media doesn't help itself by creating so-called 'click-bait' -- salacious, prurient content designed to get more page views ("You won't BELIEVE number 247!"), to show more ads, to generate more revenue.

Then there's the entertainment media's strange habit of presenting members of the press as irritating nuisances. You know the stereotype: the hero of the movie is super-busy just trying to save the world when a nosy reporter starts bugging him/her with a lot of stupid, hero-distracting questions. Or the paparazzi. Or the TV talking head who only cares about furthering her or his career. Generally the hero says something like, "The media!" Which is our cue to roll our eyes and think, 'Arggh! The press bites sooo much!"

It's our job to react to that kind of portrayal as strongly as we would if Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson slipped into a Victoria's Secret and bought a bra and panties -- for HIMSELF. You know what you'd do; you'd get up and walk out. And here's the thing: the portrayal of our right to free speech as anything other than sacrosanct is incomprehensively worse than watching The Rock frolicking around in a 48 triple C.

And, it should be acknowledged that, for the most part the press DOES correct its mistakes. Take the recent error by CNN in which White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci was depicted as being under investigation in the ongoing Russia probe. They blew it. And three journalists -- one of them a Pulitzer Prize-winner -- were fired as a result. The correct reaction is to applaud them, not think, "The sooner the print press goes away, the better society will be" -- which is an actual recent quote from Maine governor Paul LePage.

Of course, in LePage's world, we won't get to pick and choose. So long Fox News, you'll no longer be fair and balanced because you'll be GONE. Goodbye Breitbart News, you weren't bright enough to see it coming. Adios Alex Jones, you lost the battle AND the InfoWar, amigo. And Limbaugh, you were in such a hurry to throw out the bathwater you tossed the baby out with it. And, let's be honest: We still haven't heard the President admit he's made ANY mistakes about ANYTHING. Ever.

It's not fun, but our job as citizens of a free society is to sort through ALL of it, just as we accept that our local supermarket carries foods we don't want to be tempted by (why must my beloved Trader Joe's put everything chocolate-covered so close to the organic foods!).

Good reporting isn't impossible, it's just really, really hard. Mistakes will be made along the way and we will mete out severe punishment (like CNN did).

Some things you might want to consider:
>> In both your mind and your clicks, distinguish the tabloid press from the real press as clearly as you are able to distinguish the legitimate gun owner from the mass murderer or terrorist. If everyone did that, the tabloid press would be wither and die for lack of clicks.
>> Avoid fake news -- the REAL fake news, not the FAKE fake news -- 'news' that intentionally attempts to conflate the junk media with serious reporting.
>> Subscribe to at least one great REAL NEWS print or online outlet: the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, Real Clear Politics, etc. And reward papers (like this one) that make a sincere attempt to include views that are contrary to the majority of its subscription base.
>> Try to read news and viewpoints that challenge and even upset your world view.
>> And, for goodness sake, do not confuse the press being persistent pains in the butt with being BAD or DISHONEST at their jobs!

Thanks for reading. Next time: When leaks are outlawed only outlaws will have leaks!

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Multiple award-winner author Charles Carr has written thousands of columns and articles for The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Orange County Register, The Reader, The Californian, Parent Magazine, and many others. Thousands have attended Carr's original theater productions at prominent venues throughout So Cal. He is also a noted film director and co-founder of Art Animates Life Films. Contact him at charlescarr.com.