CNN did its part Sunday to illustrate the ever-worsening information crisis in America’ mass media, so much of which misinforms America’s masses.
The time given over to commercial breaks, for example, were the only minutes that Jake Tapper’s “State of the Nation” show did not devote itself to condemning President Trump.
Except for the ads — and, yes, a segment in which Republican Sen. Rand Paul was allowed to mention the positive side of Mt. Trump’s policies and behavior –—Mr. Tapper and his guests sounded like unconstrained spewers of Democratic National Committee talking points in the Age of Ideology Über Alles.
At the same time on another channel, “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” objectively questioned the value and purpose of President Trump’s meeting in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Wallace featured guests critical of Mr. Trump’s dealings with the European Union, NATO, Britain and Russia.
In contrast, Mr. Tapper and CNN threw away — hardly for the first time — an opportunity for intelligent discussion of the pros and cons of Trump policies and statements regarding Russia, the EU, China, North Korea and Iran.
Fareed Zakaria’s CNN show that followed Mr. Tapper’s was even more one-sided, but let’s stay with Mr. Tapper Smart and well-educated, he knows that once upon a time, Democrats and Republicans followed an unwritten rule that partisan politics stops at the water’s edge.
Mr. Tapper, in his heart of hearts, may think that it would be better to have honest, open discussion of the White House’s direction of foreign affairs incorporating many viewpoints. That suggests that his job with his network doesn’t allow room for that approach.
He doesn’t seem to mind the constraint. Mr. Tapper came off as a man convinced he’s on a mission from the deity when he rudely silenced Trump White House senior adviser Stephen Miller at start of this year for doing in Trump’s defense what all Mr. Tapper’s guests Sunday did in viciously attacking the president.
Here’s the way CNN’s A.J. Katz, quoting Mr. Tapper accusing Mr. Miller of kissing Mr. Trump’s behind, reported the January 2018 incident (six months before Mr. Trump started telling CNN’s unremittingly hostile correspondent Jim Costa at press briefings to get lost and stay lost).
“I get it. There’s one viewer that you care about right now, and you’re being obsequious. You’re being a factotum in order to please him. And I think I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time,” Mr. Tapper said before having Mr. Miller’s microphone cut off.
And all those guests who worked for President Obama’s White House, kissing their boss’ big ring in preference to criticizing him for anything at any time? Mr. Tapper never pulled their mics.
Fox News, for all its imperfections, never stoops to that level of desecration of the fairness principle on which the Fourth Estate rests.
My own newspaper, The Washington Times, has I think managed since its founding 36 years ago to remain rigid in enforcing the principle of reporting on government and politics down the middle. Yet it maintains an appeal to press-skeptical center-right readers.
So the lesson for every media outlet sheltering under the umbrella of the news media is that reasonably objective reporting is still doable after all. But the will and determination to do that are not detectable in much of America’s newsrooms.
⦁ Ralph Z. Hallow, the chief political correspondent of commentary, served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation fellow in urban journalism at Northwestern University and resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar.
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