The Spoiled Media

The other day some pundit featured in the Washington Post complained that President Biden hadn’t held a single press conference since he took office, claiming that it had been almost a hundred years since an incoming President had gone that long without a press conference.

How many press conferences a president holds – or doesn’t – isn’t a measure of accomplishment. That’s a metric set up by spoiled media types. The measure of accomplishment is what a President gets done, not how many questions from the press he answers.

The mainstream media has spent the last five years in “media paradise.” Almost every single day, they had something “newsworthy” or outrageous from Trump or his cabinet, sometimes both. Trump loved to get up and brag, usually misstating and often outright lying, but always providing red meat for the press.

Biden’s much more low key. Also to the point is the fact that, put bluntly, answering loaded questions fired at high speed isn’t his greatest strength. With Trump, it didn’t matter, because whatever he did was the “greatest” and he made so many misstatements and told so many lies that no one could keep track at the time he spoke of how many lies he uttered. According to that same Washington Post that criticized Biden, Trump issued 30,573 false or misleading statements during his presidency, averaging 21 a day.

Every president is different, and each can and should be expected to play to their strengths, not their weaknesses. Biden’s moderate and thoughtful. He’s not given to wild exaggeration or verbal pyrotechnics. He’s also been known to make media gaffes. These gaffes aren’t deliberate falsehoods or planned exaggerations, and from what I can tell, he’s tried to clarify when he’s made them. But it’s certainly natural for him to minimize the situations that cause such gaffes.

Besides which, Biden’s press secretary gives the press almost daily briefings on what the new administration is doing, where she takes questions and provides answers, or arranges for the department in question to provide an answer. The media isn’t really looking for answers when they want more opportunity to grill Biden. What they want is to put him on the spot so that they look good. Biden doesn’t have to play their game, and he shouldn’t.

For all their disclaimers, the media doesn’t really like a deliberate approach. They’re only interested in “news,’ particularly if they can make it. We don’t need more of that kind of news. We need careful and measured reports on accomplishment or lack of accomplishment.

Despite an impeachment process of his predecessor that Biden never asked for or endorsed, and an attack on the U.S. Capitol by right-wing insurgents, Biden’s already proposed, and Congress has passed, and Biden has signed into law a massive COVID aid bill, which he promised he would. He’s also accelerated the production and distribution of various COVID vaccines. Given how slowly the Congress works and a total lack of Republican support, that’s a fair amount for less than two months in office, and that doesn’t count undoing much of the damage done by Trump’s Executive Orders. All that is a far better measure of accomplishment than the number of press conferences.

3 thoughts on “The Spoiled Media”

  1. Grey says:

    What is especially comical is that he is having a press conference before the end of the month. His press secretary and chief of staff are basically open fire hoses for the media to access and he has done a few sit downs with media outlets. It’s all such precious nonsense from the DC press corps.

  2. William F McKissack says:

    I wish it was just a pundit or two. The current structure of the news organizations mean they push for ad revenue on the free sites or they try to get you behind the paywall. Far too many headlines have nothing to do with the article. The articles themselves are often poorly written and void of any context. They simply make misleading statements to get readers.
    It is unfortunate, that new organizations have not reflected on their involvment in the election and the abuses of the last administration and worked to improve.

  3. Hanneke says:

    A well-functioning democracy needs well-informed voters, so they can make reasoned choices, based on the intersection of their own goals and philosophies with the expected reasonable consequences of the diverse policies promoted by the politicians and their parties.

    That education of the voting public, and holding to account of politicians, used to be seen as the job of the “fourth estate”, the media, and in particular the news and serious political journalists. Schools should lay the foundation for understanding, but keeping people informed on an ongoing basis isn’t the job of the schools.

    The way the media is structured at present means it has been falling down on that job for quite a while now.
    The lax enforcement of anti-monopolies laws, and the dominance of some big tech companies in taking ad-money away from the old newspapers, means media companies are swallowed up by ever larger companies, which are very focused on gaining economic dominance, often though click-bait ad-revenue generating puff-pieces, that polarize the public instead of informing them. Their commitment is not to informing the public, but to making money by entertaining them and keeping them riled up.
    Billionaire owners and donors aim to push a partisan agenda, with very one-sided ‘news’, both in the choices of what they report on, and how it gets reported (up to and including lying about the opposition), and even hiding unwelcome information (e.g. by paying for an exclusive story and then killing it instead of printing it).

    In large parts of the English-speaking world, the not too internet-savvy public has acces to news from only a few sources on radio, tv and in newspapers; if those sources are more or less aligned in their economic and/or cultural viewpoint, informing the public does not happen in an impartial, value-neutral way.
    Instead they are constantly fed a very biased view of reality, sometimes outright propaganda, and are encouraged to take sides, and judge on superficial points rather than think through the consequences of the details of policies, even when those will have a big impact on their lives.

    It’s a bit unrealistic to expect voters to make good decisions about what they want their future to look like, if the media refuses to inform them of the consequences of the policies their side’s politicians will try to enact, or even what the details of those policies will be.
    It’s why I see the media as a very large part of the problem in US and UK politics.

    It’s hard to figure out a way to solve this, as the politicians in power profit by the present system, and so are unlikely to promulgate stringent reforms (like breaking up too-large media empires, making a law that media need to fact-check the truths of the statements they publish, and making them liable for publishing lies or speculations without marking them as such).

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