Washington Post media writer Erik Wemple, who uses a headshot that appears to be about twelve years old, received a timely question from a reader named Jon. As we head further into the 2024 campaign, he asked: “What is it going to take for coverage of [Donald Trump] to stop falling into the same mistakes?”
Wemple gave a superficial answer about cable news being too driven by a “ratings contest,” which completely missed the point of the question, so let me help this poor guy out by answering it myself.
First, Jon, we’d need to define “mistakes.” Because in your question, you actually credit Wemple for having “provided on-target descriptions and prescriptions” for the media’s Trump coverage, I’ll assume you generally mean something like “interviewing a former president, who is running for president again, on live national television.”
Wemple had previously written that such an event, like the town hall-style event that CNN hosted earlier this year, fails at “providing viewers with a comprehensive inventory of true and false claims.” In other words, a live interview with Trump doesn’t allow for the host to interrupt him every two seconds with a “FACT CHECK! YOU ARE WRONG, MR. PRESIDENT! HAVE YOU NO SHAME, SIR?!”
If it’s a “mistake” to interview a leading presidential candidate in front of a live audience, then the answer, Jon, is not that there are mistakes to be corrected. It’s that you are an anti-American fascist with no hope for saving. And because of people like you and Wemple, the media can’t be trusted for one second to accurately and honestly relay any information about the campaign.
That’s why live events are now considered “mistakes” by the likes of Jon and Wemple — because they don’t get to be the ones to tell you what happened, as colored by their own opinions and preferences. They don’t get to say that “Trump lied all night” until after the fact when voters have already been given a chance to make up their own minds.
In that sense, the “mistake,” by extension, is leaving anything up to voters at all. If it’s a professional failure for the media to trust their audiences in an election, then the mission isn’t to deliver news and information but to push in favor or against a potential outcome.
President Biden lies all the time. In his telling of events, everyone under his economy is rich and driving fun EVs. In reality, wages are flat, inflation has surged for nearly two years (meaning middle-income earners are poorer), and the billions in taxpayer dollars Biden just dumped on electric vehicle manufacturing has proven the whole thing to be a giant scam. He also denies the existence of his grandchild and parades his lowlife, drug-addicted son around the White House.
Yet, neither Jon nor anyone in the media thinks it would be a catastrophic mistake to host a live interview with a president, also running for a second term, who so readily lies.
The answer to your question, Jon, is that you would like the media to further cement its opposition to half of the country’s voters. They can certainly do that and probably will. But don’t mistake it for “news.”