The media handled the Mueller report very poorly

by Charlie Vargas, Contributor

It’s now been more than a couple of weeks since the Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered his report on whether or not the Trump administration colluded with Russia.

This investigation took two years to complete, and although there were other findings unrelated to Russian collusion, this investigation resulted in a stain on the press’s credibility.

Looking back on the relationship between Trump and the media leading up to the 2016 election, he embodied an adversarial role. Trump repeatedly called unfavorable coverage of him “fake news.”

He heckled journalists at his rallies and encouraged supporters to follow while he offered to pay their court fees if any legal troubles manifested. In his presidency, he would call The New York Times “a true enemy of the people.”

He developed hegemonic support that regarded the press as fallacious.

As we have seen with the results of the Mueller report, it seems like the answer is damaging.

The narrative that Russia aided Trump to get into office because Trump himself was a compromised Russian agent is as outrageous as it sounds yet it gave rise to the conspiracy of Russiagate which fused with mainstream news.

Major news outlets like CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post and others all entertained this narrative.

As gatekeepers of information, their responsibilities entailed which stories would be the focal point of their production.

The choice of the Mueller report as the center of primetime news was a mistake, and some conscientious journalists criticized it.

Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, and Michael Tracey were among the skeptics and all subjects of attacks for their open suspicion of this conspiracy theory becoming normalized.

None of these journalists were ever invited to participate in broadcast news debates or analysis that promoted Russiagate because it did not fit the narrative of Russian collusion promoted on these new outlets.

Of course, it was also not helpful that some of those involved in Trump’s campaign like Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, lied in their interviews to the F.B.I., which resulted in their indictments and a boost in confidence for hardline Russiagate believers.

Once again the press played a vital role in elevating Trump.

Another notable instance was in 2016 when a report in The New York Times reported that Trump gained $2 billion worth of free media coverage.

Now, we see the benefit in Trump’s favor once more.

When Trump wishes to criticize the media for having a vendetta against him he can point to the propellers of Russiagate.

When he correlates the press to fake news, he can provide Russiagate as an example of inaccuracy and falsehood.  

The damage of the press’ credibility comes at a time when journalism is genuinely suffering.

Earlier this year, Buzzfeed laid off 200 of its workers and the company is not the exception for axing journalism jobs. Version Media Group, a company that encompasses Yahoo, AOL, and HuffPost cut about 800 jobs this year, and Vice Media reduced its staff by 15 percent last year.

The common factor in job cuts is that the owners are merely trying to run a business and business sometimes means profit first, not news production and not journalism.

Take for example The Washington Post earlier this year and its purchase of a Superbowl ad that cost close to $10 million. Those funds could be better allocated to hire more journalists rather than to promote their brand.

If democracy truly dies in darkness, then maybe doing something about the lack of jobs in journalism might be better appreciated.

The 24-hour news business model perpetuated an abundance of free air-time for Trump; it helped keep Russiagate as the focal point of the front pages and primetime coverage to drive up ratings and subscriptions.

It was all about profitability at the end of the day.

The ones who suffer most will be the journalists who will get blanketed as perpetrators of prevarications.

The business model that places profit over loyalty is contrary to the purpose of journalism. Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel authors of, “The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect” write that one of the elements of journalism should be the loyalty to its citizens.

In the cases concentrated on Trump, it is clear that this was not the case.

Citizens were not only misinformed and misled by every Russiagate segment that started with a “bombshell revelation” on cable news and publications, but the loyalty of the media to its citizens faltered in the worst way possible.

For journalism to truly thrive in an era of media condemnation, we need a press that will steer their eyes away from sensationalism; we need news that will hold its loyalty to its citizens by providing validity to their coverage.

Most importantly we need a press that is funded to produce news first and foremost and one that is not driven by profit.

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