Roy Exum: Trump’s Editorial Coup

Friday, August 17, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I got a great laugh when I heard a consortium of “the greatest newspapers in the world” would band together – as one mighty voice – and collectively castigate President Trump for his repeated attacks on newspapers, their editors and their reporters. “Our words will differ,” said Marjorie Pritchard of the Boston Globe, who called for the group-fest, “but we can agree that such attacks (like ‘fake news’) are alarming.”

Word has it about 250 of America’s newspapers joined in the war cry against press-bashing yesterday and, as I skimmed over several versions during my Morning Reading, so help me I could just picture the President running around his bed in his pajamas, jumping with the glee of a 10-year-old on Christmas morning. The spectacle was strangely reminiscent of back when you would hold a pretty girl’s hand and sing Kumbaya around the campfire at some church retreat long ago.

Honestly, the nation’s media played right into The Donald’s hand and, if you dare think such buffoonery is going to shorten the President’s stride, you are off your medicine. Virtually every newspaper that took part in the Thursday cattle call, you’ll remember, heartily endorsed Hillary Clinton in the last election, and some still openly mourn her defeat. But tell me, pilgrim, how did that trial run of press-ink solidarity work out in the election for the journalistic wackos?

Worse, since the very day Trump won the election, the vicious liberals who write each day’s stories have attacked the president, his policies, his cabinet picks, this family, his hairdo … nothing is off the table. The barrage is without end. And now the most pompous in the entire newspaper game want to demand that Donald should now fight fair?

I am serious. The bias is so bad that editors force their writers to produce a pound of Trump’s flesh every day and never forget that negative stories sell far better than nice ones. This is part of the reason newspapers are going belly-up in America – the liberal mindset no longer matches that of the readers. I’ve always held the belief a well-written opinion story is one that will not change the reader’s opinion but illustrate there are two banks to every creek – just on different sides of the stream.

I love the Washington Post, the LA Times, the NY Times, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and a stack of others. While I rarely agree with their liberal views, they have troves of stories that I enjoy and appreciate. Back in the day I knew a lot of newspaper folks around the country and had the readers a way to know them human-to-human, people would discount their self-ordained authority.

On the other hand, much of my newspaper career was battling mightily against the Chattanooga Times and we fought over everything – advertising, the first break on a story, and all else. One of the biggest blunders a publicity hound could make was to give the break on a good story to “them” before trying to peddle it at our place. Many a fool has been escorted to the door by “us” and “Hey, you want that story in our newspaper – then buy an ad, Goldilocks!”

When my family took over the Times and insisted they maintain a separate editorial voice, the competition between the two newsrooms wasn’t as intense – we had all the marbles. But when the papers merged to one daily paper in 1999, and I got to know many of the Times writers who I had known as “the enemy” for years, I quickly found they were some of the finest human beings alive.

Sadly, Trump has no way of knowing that for every scallywag in the nation’s media, there are nine others he would love as a next-door neighbor. But because America has now turned meaner that I have ever known, the ‘got cha’ journalism method has been allowed to flourish. Trump has been a brawler for all of his life and his methodology is “You’re fired.” After Thursday’s day of editorial-page unity, just you wait – Donald will evermore turn up the flame because he knows the jugular vein in the newspaper game is attacking its liberal stance to the delight of his audience.

Face it, Trump was elected by an overwhelming conservative base that doesn’t like liberal writers, either. (Look at CNN’s fall.)  He tells his followers that journalists are “dangerous and sick” and absolutely dishonest. Trump also says the wide-spread liberal views in the media bring about “great division and distrust” but –whoa! – here’s where he is right.

You see, he is playing to his conservative base in a way that causes a ripple effect in rancor. By discrediting the flock of liberals who guide the nation’s newspapers, he is boosting a revolution of sorts among conservatives that is so telling that the popular joke is the Republican Party will soon be called “The Trumps!”

Joe Engel, who owned the Chattanooga Lookouts when I was a kid and who once traded a pitcher for a live turkey, had a great outlook on the media. “I don’t care if you write good things about me or bad things about me --- just write about me!”

On Thursday Trump had 240 of “the greatest newspapers in the world” write about him. Advantage? Mr. Trump, and this in such a way the man no longer needs as much as a dog’s leash to lead them wherever he wants to go.

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