In Donald Trump’s America, the mere act of reporting news unflattering to the president is held up as evidence of bias. Journalists are slandered as “enemies of the people.”
Facts that contradict Trump’s version of reality are dismissed as “fake news.” Reporters and their news organizations are “pathetic,” “very dishonest,” “failing,” and even, in one memorable turn of phrase, “a pile of garbage.”
Trump is, of course, not the first American president to whine about the news media or try to influence coverage. President George W. Bush saw the press as elitist and “slick.” President Obama’s press operation tried to exclude Fox News reporters from interviews, blocked many officials from talking to journalists and, most troubling, prosecuted more national security whistle-blowers and leakers than all previous presidents combined.
But Trump being Trump, he has escalated the traditionally adversarial relationship in demagogic and potentially dangerous ways.
Most presidents, irritated as they may have been, have continued to acknowledge — at least publicly — that an independent press plays an essential role in American democracy. They’ve recognized that while no news organization is perfect, honest reporting holds leaders and institutions accountable; that’s why a free press was singled out for protection in the 1st Amendment and why outspoken, unfettered journalism is considered a hallmark of a free country.
Trump doesn’t seem to buy it. On his very first day in office, he called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth.”
Since then he has regularly condemned legitimate reporting as “fake news.” His administration has blocked mainstream news organizations, including The Times, from briefings and his secretary of State chose to travel to Asia without taking the press corps, breaking a longtime tradition.
This may seem like bizarre behavior from a man who consumes the news in print and on television so voraciously and who is in many ways a product of the media. He comes from reality TV, from talk radio with Howard Stern, from the gossip pages of the New York City tabloids, for whose columnists he was both a regular subject and a regular source.
But Trump’s strategy is pretty clear: By branding reporters as liars, he apparently hopes to discredit, disrupt or bully into silence anyone who challenges his version of reality. By undermining trust in news organizations and delegitimizing journalism and muddling the facts so that Americans no longer know who to believe, he can deny and distract and help push his administration’s far-fetched storyline.
It’s a cynical strategy, with some creepy overtones. For instance, when he calls journalists “enemies of the people,” Trump (whether he knows it or not) echoes Josef Stalin and other despots.
But it’s an effective strategy. Such attacks are politically expedient at a moment when trust in the news media is as low as it’s ever been, according to Gallup. And they’re especially resonant with Trump’s supporters, many of whom see journalists as part of the swamp that needs to be drained.
Of course, we’re not perfect. Some readers find news organizations too cynical; others say we’re too elitist. Some say we downplay important stories, or miss them altogether. Conservatives often perceive an unshakable liberal bias in the media (while critics on the left see big, corporate-owned media institutions like The Times as hopelessly centrist).
To do the best possible job, and to hold the confidence of the public in turbulent times, requires constant self-examination and evolution. Soul-searching moments — such as those that occurred after the New York Times was criticized for its coverage of the Bush administration and the Iraq war or, more recently, when the media failed to take Trump’s candidacy seriously enough in the early days of his campaign — can help us do a better job for readers. Even if we are not faultless, the news media remain an essential component in the democratic process and should not be undermined by the president.
Some critics have argued that if Trump is going to treat the news media like the “opposition party” (a phrase his senior aide Steve Bannon has used), then journalists should start acting like opponents too. But that would be a mistake. The role of an institution like the Los Angeles Times (or the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or CNN) is to be independent and aggressive in pursuit of the truth — not to take sides. The editorial pages are the exception: Here we can and should express our opinions about Trump. But the news pages, which operate separately, should report intensively without prejudice, partiality or partisanship.
Given the very real dangers posed by this administration, we should be indefatigable in covering Trump, but shouldn’t let his bullying attitude persuade us to be anything other than objective, fair, open-minded and dogged.
The fundamentals of journalism are more important than ever. With the president of the United States launching a direct assault on the integrity of the mainstream media, news organizations, including The Times, must be courageous in our reporting and resolute in our pursuit of the truth.
You know that if I have a blog and I’m rambling on about Social Media, you knew this topic was going to rear its head again. Verification!
So let me start by giving you my position on this and then discuss it. First of all I believe that Verification is necessary in several circumstances.
1. When someone is trusted by the public to provide information (newscasters, those on news radio, columnists etc…) And yes, that includes online as well as traditional media folks.
2. Government Officials: the last thing we need is a fake politician online, right? ;-)
3. Celebrities and others in the public eye should be verified so folks know that they are talking to the ‘real deal’.
So here is where things get a little sticky. While the term public eye is a fairly broad statement I think the focus needs to be on the word 'public’ (i.e. those that are recognized and known to be influencers to the public) so friends of public types, including spouses, assistants, employees, etc… should not be be verified, imho.
Does Joe Blogger who has 2000 followers of his blog need to be verified? No. I don’t believe he does. He can certainly verify himself to his followers by posting a link to his twitter account. That’s how I used to do it before verification; I had a link on my website.
Just to segue for a moment, even that link didn’t matter to Twitter who, at one point, shut down my account. My webguy frantically searched for a way to contact Twitter in those early days. He managed to contact a woman who was obviously on some kind of Twitter power trip - she demanded to be faxed a unredacted copy of my drivers license.
To digress for a moment even further (this is a segue to a segue - get use to it with me), the drivers license request (unredacted or not) is one of those broken record requests that seem to happen in social media on a pretty regular basis. Note to Social Media Companies; I’m not going to give you a copy of my drivers license, my passport or even my AARP card (once I’m old enough to apply for one.) Why should a company have my private information including my home address and my age to “prove” it’s me? Do they know where I live and they are comparing it?
When I refused her reply back to my guy was that she was the “gatekeeper” and unless I sent it in I was not getting my account back.
Shatner has accepted the challenge.
My response back to her was that I was doing a national interview in a couple hours and that I would be talking to the Press about how some 'gatekeeper’ at Twitter was demanding a copy of my drivers license or else I would no longer have access to tweet.
The Powers that be at Twitter replied back with an apology and my account was turned on 30 mins before my interview.
So now that you are in awe of my heroic efforts against the social meanies found in Social Media companies let’s segue on back to verification.
For those that do not have a verified account - they are differences in verified accounts. One big difference is found in the Mentions area on Twitter. There is a special view to see tweets made to you from other verified accounts. I use this to keep up with folks that I follow, spar with, and generally interact with.
So this helps me segue into the Engadget stupidity that occurred on Twitter.
Let me set the scene. One lovely June Saturday I loged onto to Twitter and go to my verified view seeing if my dear friend Carrie Fisher had tweeted something lovely to me.
Instead I find this tweet:
BTW, I’ve redacted ;-) his info and the other two recipients (one was a hotel.) So I looked at his account - it was a verified account and he’s listed his occupation as the Social Media Manager of Engadget.
Social Media Managers can get verified???!!
I had never communicated with this person before yet here he was boasting that his next goal was to beat me in followers.
So I tweeted back to him:
And that started the storm of words that somehow translated in some press stories that William Shatner didn’t want ANYONE verified!
I know what it takes to get someone verified. I argue about verification with the @Verified Twitter account constantly to see if I can vouch for verification. Friends of mine, who deserve verification still have yet to be verified. Walter Koenig who was on Star Trek with me STILL isn’t verified, Robert Picardo from Voyager, even that Bastion of 'truth in news’ the National Enquirer is not verified!
Yet here we have a VERY IMPORTANT person with the job of Social Media Manager for Engadget who has a verified account. If someone were to impersonate him would anything be compromised? Would public safety be put at risk?
I even heard from Mr Social Media Manager’s boss, Mr. Editor in Chief of Engadget who in his reply to me on Twitter stated that his employees get verified because they are “excellent” at their jobs:
Now here’s a classic example of someone who really doesn’t know what the 'rules’ are for Twitter verification yet he’s the BIG SHOT guy of a major social media organization!
Need I even say more about the abuse of Verification beyond this tweet?
I don’t think I have to but I shall! :-)
So in checking out other verified accounts belonging to Engadget folks I came across this one on Twitter
A verified account of an ex-Engadget employee who was now a full time student. I was intrigued as to why someone who had an important enough job to get verified had gone back to school for.
So I went to see what this gentleman did for Engadget. And I found their LinkedIn page which explained what he did for Engadget:
So that’s the job description of what it takes to be verified!
Are you taking notes?
Write a Round up and get verified!
It sounds like a job that really requires verification as the public could be fooled should someone create a fake Editorial Assistant account on Twitter and really run amok with misinforming the public.
Don’t you agree?
What this shows is that whomever is telling Twitter to verify accounts for Engadget is abusing the system. And it’s probably very easy to abuse it in the corporate world of Engadget because even their Editor in Chief doesn’t understand what accounts need to be verified and what accounts do not.
He views it as a reward for an employee doing a good job! Good job Round Up writer! Here’s your blue check mark!
BTW, the Editor In Chief’s tweets to me have all been deleted at this point. I assume the reason is that someone finally mentioned to him what Twitter requires for Verified accounts and being a supposed 'mover and shaker’ in the social media world; Mr. Editor in Chief probably didn’t want to be the subject of ridicule at the next movers and shakers quarterly meeting..
So whose job is it to police verified accounts? Does Twitter need to police it? Should corporates also police it?
Twitter doesn’t want to be in the business of verifying that’s clear from their impersonation form that even if you go through the bother of proving a government issued ID that they will NOT verify your account:
I think that Twitter needs to come back to the corporate world with a more stringent set of rules and figure a way to enforce those policies
It’s clear that there is abuse of verified status but the other side of the coin argument is that Twitter’s policies allow folks to abuse the system.
Also once verified; should accounts be unverified if the person’s status changes? Who polices that?
What are your thoughts? Should Twitter police their accounts or should others also be responsible?
So now are you clear on my issues? Does it sound like I don’t want anyone verified? Well unless you are an 'editorial assistant’… :-)
I know what you are saying… it’s old news Shatner! Engadget has moved on and forgotten about you.
REALLY?!! You think?
Well Engadget reviewed my blog from last week on Facebook Mentions:
Check out what they photo shopped into my hand. A cell phone with a big blue and white verified Twitter check mark!
Geeks never forget. And I’m one of the oldest geeks there is.
Engadget, you want a piece of this? Bring it on!!! ;-)