Inside the Beltway: The blundering news media gets worse

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President Trump continues to push back at the hostile news media with great vigor, prompting his critics to squawk and chafe — but to no avail. The presidential tweet has become a strategic fixture in the war between White House and press corps, and an effective one at that.

“Very little discussion of all the purposely false and defamatory stories put out this week by the Fake News Media. They are out of control — correct reporting means nothing to them. Major lies written, then forced to be withdrawn after they are exposed a stain on America!” Mr. Trump tweeted late Sunday afternoon — this following several glaring gaffes by major news organizations in the last 72 hours.

“Friday was one of the most embarrassing days for the U.S. media in quite a long time. The humiliation orgy was kicked off by CNN, with MSNBC and CBS close behind, with countless pundits, commentators and operatives joining the party throughout the day,” writes Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of TheIntercept.com, who is recounting CNN’s most recent erroneous reporting on the never-ending “Trump/Russia collusion” story. The CNN “scoop” was quickly picked up by the other networks — then retracted once facts did not pan out.

“How can journalists and news outlets so flamboyantly act offended when they’re attacked as being ‘Fake News’ when this is the conduct behind which they hide when they get caught disseminating incredibly consequential false stories?” Mr. Greenwald asks in his meticulous analysis.

“No matter your views on those political controversies, no matter how much you hate Trump or regard Russia as a grave villain and threat to our cherished democracy and freedoms, it has to be acknowledged that when the U.S. media is spewing constant false news about all of this, that, too, is a grave threat to our democracy and cherished freedom,” he later added.

“U.S. media outlets are very good at demanding respect. They love to imply, if not outright state, that being patriotic and a good American means that one must reject efforts to discredit them and their reporting because that’s how one defends press freedom. But journalists also have the responsibility not just to demand respect and credibility but to earn it,” advises Mr. Greenwald.

MEMO: PRESIDENT NO. 3 TO PRESIDENT NO. 5

“From 40 years of experience of the wretched guess work of newspapers of what is not done in the daylight — and of their falsehood even as to that — I rarely think them worth reading, and almost never worth notice” wrote Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to James Monroe, dated on Feb. 4, 1816.

America was on the cusp of a big media boom when that presidential missive was written, and that boom looks a little familiar.

“In 1800 there were 200 newspapers being published in the United States. By 1860 there were 3,000,” reports the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in a history of the U.S. press from 1800-1860.

“Many of the new urban papers that were founded in the 1830s and ‘40s reached unprecedented circulation numbers. According to one estimate, the total annual circulation of all newspapers between 1828 and 1840 doubled from 68 million to 148 million copies. Some scholars also speculate that this expansion of the press was due to increased political participation of the working and middle classes, higher rates of literacy, and increased leisure time.”

HELPFUL REALITY CHECK

While hubbub continues over political spats, one veteran analyst has a reminder for one and all.

“The Heritage Foundation’s new Index of U.S. Military Strength describes the alarming condition of America’s armed forces. All of the uniformed services’ ground, naval and air forces are suffering the cumulative effects of two decades of deferred modernization, a trillion dollars in budget cuts and grinding, debilitating worldwide conflict and other power projection operations,” says Frank Gaffney, president and CEO of the Center for Security Policy.

Indeed, readiness scores of branches of the armed forces and U.S. nuclear capabilities are described as “weak” or “marginal” in the hefty Heritage analysis, found here

“The book’s editor, retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Dakota Wood, told me yesterday that while our military still is made up of superb men and women, they are simply not receiving the training, the spare parts and the quantities of modern equipment needed to meet today’s threats — let alone tomorrow’s,” Mr. Gaffney continues.

“Our enemies recognize this reality, even if most Americans do not. If we fail to mobilize the resources, industrial capability and the will to reverse it, we invite — and will surely suffer the terrible consequences of — their aggression.”

FOX NEWS TOPS SOCIAL MEDIA

Fox News has been the top cable news provider for the last 16 years according to Nielsen Media Research, also consistently besting other cable rivals who provide entertainment, sports and consumer coverage. The network also rules much of social media. Fox News draws more readers to its Facebook site than any other news organization in the world according to a new report from NewsWhip, which measures online traffic data for social media sites associated with news organizations.

In November, FoxNews.com drew 21.5 million visitors to its popular Facebook page, besting The New York Times which was in second place, followed by the Facebook platforms of NBC, The Daily Mail and CNN.com. Rounding out the top 10 are Bored Panda in sixth place, followed by Huffington Post, BBC, Daily Wire and The Hill.

“With Facebook and Google controlling the vast majority of digital ad revenue, all industry eyes are on which media companies perform best on those platforms,” noted FastCompany.com in their own study of the “platform wars” among the news organizations.

Keep in mind that the aforementioned numbers are for Facebook traffic alone. Fox News also draws some 60 million people a month to its website and has close to 17 million followers on Twitter, 1.6 million on Instagram and 769,000 subscribers on YouTube. Individual programs, anchors and personalities also have their own social media outreach.

POLL DU JOUR

• 62 percent say public education is a “right of all Americans” regardless of income.

• 62 percent say access to clean water is a right, 60 percent say the same of police and fire department services.

• 53 percent say public roadway systems are a right.

• 37 percent say “fully funded universal health care” is a right.

• 30 percent say trash pickup is a right.

A Policy Genius/Google Consumer survey of 1,500 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 10-12 and released Friday.

• Wonders and blunders to [email protected]