Icon of modern journalism Dan Rather is rightly pissed off about the shoddy nature of the mainstream “news” coverage of Hillary Clinton’s health. Well, that makes two of us at the very least.
It’s truly absurd. So called news outlets are asking questions that are totally irrelevant to a presidential election. Just the other day, two numb-skulls, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann of MSNBC, asked an “expert” how often Hillary should have a colonoscopy. REALLY guys?
Put plainly, this is freaking ridiculous. Just recently, a news outlet reported that Hillary Clinton was DEAD. Hint, shes not. They didn’t care, though. I mean where did they get their information? Some jackass’ Twitter feed?
The complete disregard for facts and quality reporting hasn’t gone unnoticed. Dan Rather has decided to enter the fray and gives some of the harshest criticism of American journalism he’s given to date about the “first out of the gate” and facts-be-damned reporting on the 2016 election.
Rather’s comments are as follows:
When did so many political reporters start playing follow the leader? What happened to trying to make your mark through original reporting instead of just echoing the same story line everyone else is blasting out? And why are so many taking their cues from biased interest groups and political operatives?
I couldn’t help but think of all these questions this morning with so many headlines overwhelming me with the Clinton health story. I remarked before on this page, and still believe, that it was a legitimate news event when she got ill, and the shifting explanations of the campaign didn’t help. But there is a very important difference between a story worthy of coverage and a tsunami of wall-to-wall overkill.
The New York Times had multiple stories in today’s paper on various angles to Secretary Clinton’s health. But let’s be clear – barring any new developments this remains the story of a candidate working hard on the campaign trail who got a mild case of pneumonia and kept going when she maybe should have rested a bit. Everyone gets sick and until we have more proof of something severe, it remains a storyline to monitor but not belabor.
Meanwhile, we have some great independent investigations about Donald Trump that aren’t getting nearly enough attention. There are his campaign contributions to a Florida Attorney General who didn’t press the case against the very troubling so-called Trump University, We have serious questions about his charitable giving, an issue that could be settled by the tax returns he refuses to release. And then there are all the questions about his coziness to Putin, not to mention his rhetoric on race and immigration.
A few outlets have really distinguished themselves this campaign season – the Washington Post in particular comes to mind with what I think is fair reporting on both major party candidates. The Post reporters have done a good job of seeing both the forest and the trees – keeping a sense of balance between the necessary day-to-day coverage of the campaign and the bigger themes that need more high-profile vetting.
I understand well the instincts of some in the press who fear appearing to be biased. Yes, it is our job to vet the candidates without fear or favor, to play no favorites, pull no punches, but that means actually reporting beyond what the candidates are saying and what they are their operatives are pressuring us to cover. The stakes here are about who will occupy the most difficult and demanding job in the world. Our system of government relies on a fiercely independent press – and a fair one. We should not be chasing trending topics or Internet memes. We should be asking new questions, chasing down leads, and doing deep-digging investigations. We need more substance and less trivia – more background and context and less going with the trendy headline of the moment. That is the role of a professional journalist and the country needs us to act accordingly.
Allow me to respond to Mr. Rather visually.
This is exactly what needed to be said. Our media are completely out of control. They’re letting Trump’s racism and white supremacy go without challenge while criticizing Hillary for calling his supporters racist. THEY ARE RACISTS. Everyone who supports him is, because simply by the fact they support him. Then they take the next step and spend more time focusing on Hillary’s health non-issue than the fact Trump’s VP pick refuses to denounce David Duke. Racism and white supremacy is not newsworthy, according to our media, but Hillary throwing a wobble when she got into a car means she’s literally dying as per their reports.
Thank God that we have a few journalists like Dan Rather left among us. Maybe after the election we can have people like him remind us what it means to have responsible reporting in our news again.