Media Critic Calls On Journalists To Be Obedient Stenographers

from the wtf? dept

Media critic Michael Wolff has a fairly long history of being hilariously wrong about just about everything. It's sort of his thing. He also has a history of being a ridiculously bad journalist in those rare moments when he tries to do journalism. We normally ignore him, but last week he said something so ridiculous and so crazy, that it deserved calling out. He called on journalists to be stenographers to those in power. Literally.
I think what’s required is for the media to do its job. I feel deeply the media hasn’t done its job. It’s abdicated its responsibility, has lost itself somewhere. Right now it’s an interesting moment where the media looks at Donald Trump as a threat instead of a story, possibly the biggest story of our time. Certainly a story that needs to be told in rather conventional ways. Who are these people, what motivates them, where are they from, where are they going — just basic storytelling.

I thought these people have won an election, so now is the time to go in and say who are you and what do you think. We are not in an oppositional moment right now; that has passed. I actually asked very few questions. I said tell me who you are. He talked and I took notes. Yes, you do want to be stenographers. That’s a very significant piece of journalism. We don’t want to hear [the reporter]. Write it down. You’re there to literally convey what someone in power says, and you bring it to people who want to know. Journalism is now a profession filled with people who are not journalists. They’re all under 25, talking to people under the age of 25. Let me send the message: stenographer is what you’re supposed to be.

[The move against normalizing Trump actions and language] are just institutional biases. This is formally saying we are biased and want to be biased, we are judge and jury.
This is wrong and idiotic on so many levels. First of all, a big part of the problem is that journalists have been stenographers for way too long. Their ridiculous "view from nowhere" where "person A says X, but person B says Y" journalism, without ever delving which is correct between X & Y, is a huge part of the problem. Calling bullshit on bullshit is not "bias." It's called accurately informing people. But Wolff apparently thinks we've had enough of that.

For years, calling journalists "stenographers" was a punchline to highlight how feckless many journalists had become, where they looked to pull punches to retain "access." There's a reason you have lots of articles online mocking journalists because they became stenographers. There's a reason that Stephen Colbert got such big laughs by calling White House correspondents stenographers. Because it was all too accurate:
Let's review the rules. Here's how it works. The President makes decisions. He's the decider. The Press Secretary announces the decisions. And you people of the press type those decisions down. Make. Announce. Type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you've got kicking around in your head. You know the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know: fiction.
Back when he performed that, it was satire. Now here's Wolff saying the same thing seriously. This is how far we've come.

The good thing about this election was that it finally shocked some reporters out of this mode, and it's insane to argue that that was the mistake. There is some truth in the fact that reporters got too focused on Trump, the person, as opposed to focusing on actual issues and policies, but to argue that they should just be stenographers is insane. Politicians thrive on misleading the press and Trump is an expert at it. He's the king of "hey, look over there" whenever any legitimate story against him comes out. He plays the press like a banjo. And, while I'm not convinced they'll figure out how to counter that and to do what the real press should do -- which is hold Trump accountable -- the idea that their role should be stenographers is insane.

Filed Under: donald trump, journalism, michael wolff, reporting, stenographers, truth


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  1. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 29 Nov 2016 @ 4:55pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I should have added, they went after Trump while ignoring the controversy around Hillary.

    This is not even remotely true. The controversy around Clinton's email servers got a ridiculous amount of coverage. It was interesting to us here, because that was an issue that we had strong opinions on, but it far outweighed the seriousness of ths issue, and paled in comparison to coverage of Trump's equally problematic issues.

    They ignored Wikileaks almost completely. Just like you are doing here.

    Wha....? We covered Wikileaks and the press was ALL OVER Wikileaks leaks. The problem was that most of them were a giant nothingburger. Oh, the campaign had lunch with the press. That's what reporters do. They cultivate sources. The biggest revelation in the leaks was the Donna Brazile sending questions over (something we did cover).

    The left are the ones living in their safe space bubble. After all, you don't see conservatives needing playdoh and puppy therapy on college campuses

    Huh? What does that have to do with anything that we're discussing.

    But when you call BS on Trump while completely ignoring the same BS or worse on Hillary and the DNC, then I have a problem.

    That's the fucking problem here. I called out Clinton just as much as Trump during the campaign. And now she lost. There's nothing to cover on her any more. So I'm covering Trump and his idiotic statements just as I would now be covering Clinton and her idiotic statements.

    Why don't you understand that?

    But yes, I will immediately unsubscribe to this blog. Your angry, bitter posts have ruined this place and that is a real shame because you had a good thing going here.

    Ok. Bye. Hurry now. Don't dawdle.


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