Epigram for our age: Who cares about reality anymore?
Mainstream media simply do not know what to do with Donald Trump. They like the readership he brings, but he violates every norm. Plus he hates the media, or he says he does, which in public relations is the same thing.
So what would you do, if you were editor of a mainstream publication? How would you adapt, if you knew the president, the president’s followers, and many who dislike the president, distrust you? Do you speak to the minority who do trust you? Do you try to win trust among people who think you don’t care all that much about honesty?
We may as well note here that honesty is not the same as fact checking. People trust you because you are honest, not because you check facts. To take a simple example: if a government agency misspends your tax dollars, and hides its budget, that’s dishonest. It deserves distrust from people who pay its bills, even if all of its public statements are true.
Let’s go back to Trump’s travails. Here is a recent headline about his son:
Donald Trump Jr.’s stunning admission to the New York Times
The only way you can possibly interpret anything in Donald Trump’s public relations stream as stunning, is if you adhere to pre-Trumpian norms. Yes, disclosure of Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian attorney was notable, but how is it stunning? Sounds pretty normal to me, especially for the Trump family. Do newspapers think they’ll garner more readers if they use the word ‘stunning’ whenever they can?
Trump Jr.’s ‘stunning admission’ came only because the Times was about to publish its story about Trump Jr.’s meeting. The Times based its story on anonymous sources, people close enough to the president’s family to know about the meeting. Yet the Times has not revealed its sources, nor does it intend to do so. It calmly expects its reputation to carry it through these sorts of stumbling blocks. If you’d like to know who threw this tantalizing bit to us, the Times suggests, go find out for yourself.
People don’t care that much about what you have to say, if you constantly hide things. That’s how dishonesty works.