Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Lesson To Keep In Mind

Martin Regg Cohn has just returned from a trip to the United States. And, as Ontario heads into an election -- with Doug Ford leading the parade -- he asked for advice from fellow journalists about how to cover a populist:

I asked an old friend, New York Times White House correspondent Mark Landler, what lessons he has learned from reporting on Trump’s ascendancy. How do you cover a candidate while uncovering the contradictions?
“The only course for journalists is to keep our heads down, keep reporting, keep trying to separate policy from pronouncements and not be intimidated by either Trump’s defenders or those who attack us,” Landler told me. Public figures remain accountable, so their outlandish statements can hardly be ignored, but they can surely be parsed for context and accuracy.
I also asked an old colleague, the Toronto Star’s Washington bureau chief, Daniel Dale, for his unique perspective after first covering the Ford brothers from city hall, and then pioneering a new story structure that deconstructs Trump’s tall tales.
He cautioned against the media’s temptation to give wildly disproportionate space in mid-campaign to the loudest voices. Balanced coverage means not just fair reporting but equal time for the major players, so that those who are most controversial don’t get all the air time.
“One of the biggest failures of the media with Trump was letting him dominate the coverage … it got ratings,” Dale says. “You can’t let his tone and bluster suck up all the oxygen ... You have to be conscious of the balance.”

Cohn reminds his readers that Trump and Ford owe a lot to P.T. Barnum. There is a portrait of Barnum in the National Portrait Gallery. The inscription underneath the picture reads: "The greatest impresario of the 19th Century, P. T. Barnum was a shrewd judge of popular taste and an intuitive master of the art of publicity who tickled the public's imagination and gleefully exploited its credulity for more than 50 years."

Gleefully exploiting the public's credulity is what Donald Trump and Doug Ford are all about.

Image: Daily Mail


Anonymous said...

The American media failed the public during the last presidential election in three significant ways:
1. Giving Trump billions of dollars worth of free airtime because he said outrageous things that would shock viewers.
2. Trying to balance negative stories on Trump and Clinton by relaying the GOP's fake scandals about her emails, Benghazi and the Clinton Foundation.
3. Failing to ask either candidate about their policy proposals and how they planned to carry them out, then providing readers with unbiased, expert commentary on the feasibility of their policies.

I hope the media doesn't make the same mistakes in covering the Ontario election, but I expect they will. There is already a strain of misogynistic reporting when it comes to the two female candidates and I fully expect Ford to take advantage of the privilege of being a rich, white, heterosexual man.


Owen Gray said...

I Ford follows the template established by his brother, I suspect your premonition will turn out to be true, Cap.

Lorne said...

Although he may or may not have said it, Owen, Barnum is famous for the observation that there's a sucker born every minute. Trump and Ford seem keenly aware of that 'fact,' and their ascensions seem validation of it, eh?

Owen Gray said...

Absolutely true, Lorne. Barnum may not have said it. But he knew a sucker when he saw one. Trump and Ford don't have many talents. But each knows how to play a sucker -- particularly when the stakes are big.

the salamander said...

.. never attribute genius to a parasite
.. yes, they are persistant, dogged, resilient, maddening
but without a morsel of compassion
and they are not your friend..

Owen Gray said...

These days, the "very model of a modern" politician seems to be the termite, sal. He undermines the ediface from the bottom up.

The Mound of Sound said...

Grassy knoll

Owen Gray said...

Who knows, Mound? Perhaps we're in for all kinds of "deep state" conspiracy theories.