NYT’s Rutenberg Bewails ‘Outgunned’ Media In Trump Age, Throws In Castro Comparison

Posted on Sat 01/14/2017 by


claywaterspicture-5-1426558377By Clay Waters ~

In Friday’s round-up of New York Times anti-Trump bias, the paper saw a rough road ahead for Trump cabinet choices. Meanwhile, media reporter Jim Rutenberg documented the latest go-round of Trump vs. the mainstream media, which Rutenberg claimed were “Outgunned, Outmaneuvered and in Need of a Game Plan.” And his NY Times colleagues provided a backhanded compliment, saying the president-elect’s social media wasn’t all “anger and spittle.”

The text box to Rutenberg’s story: “A shrewd showman has the news media at a precipice.” Rutenberg’s actual text was even more alarmist about Trump’s press relations:

2017-01-11-cnn-atthishour-trumppresser_0Well, that sure escalated quickly.

“That” was Donald J. Trump’s inaugural news conference as a duly elected United States president-to-be, in which he called BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage,” dismissed CNN as “fake news” and more or less told the whole lot of reporters at Trump Tower to stuff it when it comes to his unreleased tax returns because everyday Americans don’t care and, anyway, “I won.”

One of the lessons learned?

It better figure things out, fast, because it has found itself at the edge of the cliff. And our still-functioning (fingers crossed) democracy needs it to stay on the right side of the drop.


BuzzFeed, under Mr. Smith, has built up a fine traditional news team that has won journalism awards precisely because it succeeded in the ultimate purposes of its craft: to establish fact from fiction and enhance its readers’ understanding of reality. That’s the opposite of pumping out a bunch of unsubstantiated allegations and then leaving it to readers to “make up their own minds” about them with no reportorial guidance.

Rutenberg bemoaned the “listicle” site Buzzfeed throwing away their apparently stellar newsgathering reputation:

That’s what BuzzFeed has done with its top-notch reporting on the “fake news” phenomenon, helping to shine an early light on the false stories so many Americans were sharing on Facebook and other social media platforms throughout the campaign.

Evidently only journalists and Trump opponents are allowed to define “fake news” – as conservative blowback intensifies.

But every journalistic misstep gives more fodder to people who want to stop the efforts against “fake news” by turning the tables and labeling those efforts — or any other solid journalism they don’t like — as “fake news” as well, corrupting the term for their own purposes (a classic case of “no, you are!”).


CNN drew Mr. Trump’s hostility by breaking the news on Tuesday that a former British spy had compiled the Russia dossier and that intelligence officials included a synopsis of it in briefing materials for the president-elect. Once CNN opened the door, BuzzFeed followed by publishing the document itself.

But as CNN pointed out, it did not share the details of the memos, and it did not even link to the BuzzFeed report, despite false claims to the contrary by Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump’s adviser. Its decision, the network said, was “vastly different than BuzzFeed’s decision to publish unsubstantiated memos.”

That, in turn, drew protest from Mr. Smith of BuzzFeed, who said he was “not going to participate in an attempt to divide the media against each other.”

And so, Mr. Trump won again, by succeeding in doing just that. It was all part of a show in which he used news organizations as props in their own lampooning while he played them off each other with labels of good and bad and selectively answered their policy questions.

A united front would have given the reporters stronger footing. But that was woefully lacking when Mr. Trump shouted down Jim Acosta of CNN, who said Mr. Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, threatened to eject him.

The other reporters in the room readily took Mr. Acosta’s place, happy to have their own questions answered. But they could be next. They’re going to have to decide how much they want to abide by Mr. Trump’s decision to selectively quarantine colleagues whose coverage he does not like.

After briefly noting that Obama tried to freeze out Fox News and got pushback from then ABC, now CNN reporter Jake Tapper, Rutenberg praised Shepard Smith of Fox News for defending CNN’s Acosta, and criticized Fox News’ Sean Hannity for abusing the media.

But Rutenberg missed this 2011 exchange, via HotAir’s Ed Morrissey, between Obama and Ed Henry of Fox News (scroll down) “…in which Obama did almost exactly what Trump did. In October 2011 (only five months after joining Fox), Ed Henry asked a question about Iran’s provocations while quoting Mitt Romney, who was then running for the Republican nomination and directly criticizing Obama. “I didn’t know you were the spokesman for Mitt Romney,” Obama jabbed back. And what was the response from Henry’s colleagues at the time? Laughter.”

Rutenberg bewailed the imminent loss of press freedom under Trump.

Mr. Acosta, interestingly, made history last spring by becoming the first American journalist to ask a question of a Cuban leader, Raúl Castro, since the earliest days of the Castro regime. It was a hopeful sign of a new day for press freedom in the restrictive communist country.

His run-in with Mr. Trump, on the other hand, is a bad sign for press freedom at home. The news media can’t afford a backslide. It’s going to have to do its part to avoid one.

Also worth noting: Friday’s online transition briefing by Jonathan Weisman, Jeremy Peters, and Jennifer Steinhauer, with snarkier than usual fare for a news report, defending the unsubstantiated intelligence dossier and dismissing Trump’s social media criticisms as “anger and spittle.”

Mr. Trump likes to dismiss the “failing New York Times,” but he clearly reads it closely. The Times published a lengthy history of the dossier in question that traces it to Republican and Democratic operatives who helped bankroll it to stop Mr. Trump’s election. Left unsaid are the respectable credentials of the British spy, Christopher Steele, or the fact that he is now in hiding, fearing retribution.


If you don’t have something nice to say …

Mr. Trump’s foray onto social media Friday morning wasn’t all anger and spittle. He praised his cabinet picks’ performances before the Senate — which have gone well, on the whole — and the progress Congress is making toward gutting the Affordable Care Act.

Clay Waters was the director of Times Watch a former project of the Media Research Center .

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