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Rosen: Our free press is not above criticism

Freedom of the press, specifically protected in the First Amendment, is an essential institution in America. The ability of the press to act as a watchdog over government and business and hold people and organizations to account is a vital check on corruption and oppression in our society.

That doesn’t mean that individuals, businesses and politicians can’t freely criticize the press. Self-appointed media “watchdogs” aren’t exempt from public oversight. President Trump has every right to call out liberals at CNN and The New York Times for inaccurate and biased reporting or opinions; just as Nancy Pelosi and progressives are free to criticize conservatives at the Fox News Channel.

Contrary to paranoid, overblown or self-serving claims of some, criticism of the media doesn’t constitute a threat to press freedom, much less to “our democracy.” Freedom of the press is a wonderful concept in principle. In practice it’s not living up to its lofty purpose.

Press coverage of Trump has been so obviously negative and biased that the public has gotten increasingly wise to it. The Gallup Poll shows a declining trust of the mass media, down from 68% in 1972 to 41% today. While 69% of Democrats say they trust the mass media, only 15% of Republicans and 36% of Independents do. That’s no wonder, since the liberal mass media tend to echo Democrat and progressive bias. From so-called “reporters,” that’s journalistic malpractice.

Yes, Fox has a conservative bias. And Fox is supportive of Trump. So? In 2016, 63 million people voted for Trump, who won 30 states. Shouldn’t the views of those people have some representation in the “free press” or does the left demand an anti-Trump monopoly on TV news and analysis? In fact, that’s close to what they have. Of the prime-time TV news audience, Fox’s share is only 3.5 million; while ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS – all with a distinctly liberal bias — have a combined audience of more than 25 million. And Fox is no farther right of center than this liberal media hive is left of center. The left’s intolerance and hatred of Fox is based on little more than Fox‘s conservative viewpoint on public policy and the cockeyed notion that only liberal views are acceptable.

Journalism, as a career, inordinately attracts liberals who operate in a cultural bubble surrounded by like-minded colleagues, reinforcing their beliefs and inherent bias, even if unintentional. Sanctimonious journalists claim “they’re only the messenger.” But your mailman doesn’t edit your mail, decide what information you get, what you don’t and how it’s spun. Nor is he an advocate of some causes and an adversary of others.

When JFK, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama held presidential press conferences, the liberal Washington press corps fawned all over them. That certainly wasn’t the case with Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and, especially, Donald Trump who’s treated as an enemy with disrespect and gotcha attacks masquerading as questions. So many in the liberal media have been afflicted with Anti-Trump Derangement Syndrome, they’ve thrown any pretense of journalistic objectivity out the window.

CNN’s Jim Acosta is among the worst, and even his liberal colleagues have taken him to task. ABC’s Jonathon Karl, head of the White House Correspondents Association, says Acosta has undermined the credibility of the media by making press briefings all about himself, and acting like he’s part of the “Resistance.” Steve Krakauer, a former CNN producer, branded Acosta as “truly an embarrassment, giving all good journalists a bad name.”

On the subject of White House press conferences, I propose a change in protocol during the question and answer period. The current chaotic model has a throng of journalists yelling at the same time, competing for the president’s attention to get their question answered and their egos fed. Instead, I’d give each one a number, as in a bakery or butcher shop. During the Q&A, a presidential aide would pull matching numbers out of a churning Bingo basket and announce which winning journalist would be recognized. Wouldn’t that be more dignified? Have you also noticed that the longer the Q&A goes on, the dumber the questions get?

Another annoying thing about the press is their mob scene outside the home of an individual who’s the target of a sensationalistic news story. Reporters camped out clogging the street with their broadcast vans act like a pack of hyenas, invading someone’s privacy and hounding him for days or weeks with a barrage of microphones and cameras shoved in his face, shouting questions they know won’t be answered. It’s unproductive and uncivilized.

Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com. 

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