National Public Radio’s (NPR) Morning Edition is not alone in the race to lower journalism standards. It is; however, the latest example of how hard-hitting journalism has become a game of tossing softballs to ill-informed people for entertainment and soundbites.
Interview With a Trumpster
Friday morning (19 January 2018) Morning Edition’s Steve Inskeep and Don Gonyea were discussing Gonyea’s report on Donald Trump’s support in southwestern Pennsylvania. Included in his report was a soundbite of an interview with a Trump supporter using the name, Paul Walker:
Trump was not a politician. He did not come up through all the bullcrap and the handshakes and the elbow-rubbing. He came in. And I think it’s a direct approach. I like his twitters (ph). If you watch my Twitter account, I retweet just about everything that he puts out.
Gonyea then implied that people from the coal mining areas like Trump because they believe government regulation is taking away coal mining jobs. The next soundbite was of Republican State Senator Camera Bartolotta who explained the rationale behind Trumpster’s alleged “war on coal” sentiment:
…we have to fight for our jobs… Of course coal mining is different now. Of course you’re not going to need 2,000 coal miners in a coal mine. We’ve got automation. We’ve got machines. We’ve got, you know, better technology. But you know what? We still need coal.
As Gonyea ended his report, Steve Inskeep asked what seemed to be a prepared question for Gonyea:
…people on the left, …anytime we put Trump voters on the air. They ask – why keep interviewing Trump voters? They never change. They’re out of touch. Why? Why? Why?…Why talk to Trump voters?
Gonyea gave what seemed to be a prepared answer:
Well, first, we talk to voters of all kinds – of all stripes…As for the Trump voters, it’s important to know, A, if they’re still with him. But it’s good to hear how they talk about him and how that may change over time, if there are shifts. Is there strong support suddenly?…Also, in states where the vote’s very close, any movement among any voter group can make the difference.
The Indictment against NPR’s Morning Edition
Morning Edition violated basic journalism standards in the following ways:
Most of the information was based on opinion, not fact.
The man using the name, Paul Walker, expressed his opinion. State Senator Camera Bartolotta expressed her opinion of other people’s opinions.
Walker, said: “Trump’s not a politician.” FACT: Trump has run for political office many times. Trump has been a political figure for decades.
State Senator Bartolotta explained why Trump supporters feel they have to fight the government for coal mining jobs, then gave reasons why it wasn’t the government stealing coal mining jobs.
None of the opinions expressed were newsworthy.
These opinions are typical opinions of Trump supporters. The apparent news was that Trump supporters have the same opinions as they have always had. It is the classic dog bites man story.
Information was meaningless.
The entire story was based on uninformed and/or incorrect opinions. The story was not exposing the lack of facts by the people interviewed but instead legitimized inaccurate and/or uninformed opinion.
End Didn’t Justify the Story
The exchange between Inskeep and Gonyea seemed to be an attempt to justify poor journalism. Uniformed opinions are not news. They don’t add to the debate, and to focus on inaccurate opinion rather than fact leads people to believe that their opinion is valid regardless of how uninformed, racist, or inappropriate it is to be expressed. It encourages people to become more extremist in order to attract the attention of the media.
Trumpster Babble Shorthand
Babble #1 – “Trump’s a straight shooter” = He doesn’t research or listen to people, he just says the first thing to come into his head.
Babble #2 – “Trump speaks for the little guy.” = Trump says what uneducated racist is thinking.
Babble #3 – “We have to stop giving all our money to the government.” = I don’t want to pay for the privilege of living in the United States of America.
Babble #4 – “Trump is keeping people from coming to America and stealing our jobs.” = I’m racist so I can blame people of color for taking jobs I would never apply for because they’re beneath me, or far beyond my qualifications.
Babble #5 – “Trump’s not a politician” = He’s inexperienced.
Babble #6 – “We need jobs!” = We need jobs that pay lots of money to people in a small town with few skills and only a high school degree…or less.