The press is the problem

It’s all a stage show folks, and those who call it out will suffer

By Brian Karem


Published June 6, 2024 9:00AM (EDT)

Joe Biden | Wall Street journal logo (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Joe Biden | Wall Street journal logo (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Jeff Bezos is reorganizing the Washington Post. The New York Times is a pale shadow of its former self. CNN pays known liars and reporters call them “colleagues.” Most news organizations are in a crisis of conscience amid economic ruin. 

I take no joy in saying this. The media sucks.

Not “mainstream” media. All media; corporate media, social media, local media, national media, state media, non-profit, for-profit and the tattletale kid down the street.

The biggest problem we have is that we put profit ahead of content, we have no idea what we’re doing and we shout at the top of our lungs while doing it. We try to predict the future, don’t understand the present and misinterpret the past. Sometimes at press conferences, we sound like bleating sheep. Other times we sound, even as we report on everything from natural disasters to policymaking, as if we’re calling a horse race.

The guardrails have been removed and thus we have two major political parties that fail to represent the majority of citizens. One political party consists of criminals, seditionists, rapists, con artists, liars, misogynists and authoritarians while the other party consists of weak-kneed do-gooders restrained by woke culture and too afraid to call it all out for what it is. The media, meanwhile, plays along.

Many ask, where is our Walter Cronkite or our Edward R. Murrow? The answer is there are none and there won’t be any in the foreseeable future because of the disintegration of the Fourth Estate.

We treat the convicted felon Donald Trump as if he’s a normal presidential candidate. He is not. We treat this election year as if it is normal. It is not. We have no idea how to present and report the news. And if someone calls this into question, they are often shunned. I hope that doesn’t happen to George Conway.

This week Conway appeared with Republican shill Scott Jennings on CNN. Jennings is a CNN paid contributor from Louisville who has a great deal of experience spewing out convicted felon Trump’s talking points. Conway called him out for lying and questioned why CNN was paying Jennings.

That’s actually a very good question, and I would love to know why a network would pay Jennings any amount of money considering the lack of factual cohesion with most of what he says. But the CNN anchor wasn’t concerned about facts. She admonished Conway, instead. “Scott is our colleague and we’re going to treat him with respect,” the anchor said, and then slapped Conway on the wrist again and told him to “speak to him respectfully as such.”

This causes many, like political activist Danielle Moodie, who appeared on Mary Trump’s “Nerd Avenger’s” podcast Tuesday, to conclude that “they’re all in bed together,” meaning the press and politicians – particularly the far right.

We aren’t. And I’m sorry, but I do not consider Jennings a colleague. He’s a propagandist, Conway was correct to admonish him and I’m far more worried about reporting facts than I am worried about personal insults.

If you’re going to admonish someone for being “rude” while defending someone spreading disinformation, then you’re the problem – not the guy calling out lies for being lies.

Dahlia Lithwick, a contributing editor at Newsweek and senior editor at Slate also said on Mary Trump’s podcast that, “we’re not all friends,” and she isn’t concerned about politeness. As Sam Donaldson once noted when he was called “rude” by detractors, he was far more worried about reporters who were too disinclined to ask a decent question or those who knowingly or ineptly reported falsehoods.

Me? I’ve been called worse by people who say they love me. I don’t really care what you think of me personally. It’s irrelevant. The only relevant things are the facts. 

That brings me to Jon Stewart. On his show Monday, he praised the courts with its “legions” of faults for being the last bastion of facts. Inside a court of law you have to prove what you say. In the court of public opinion – i.e. the press and social media – you can try to craft your own reality and con as many people as you want.

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It happens every day, and there are multitudes of reporters who simply go along to get along. How often have you heard pundits say that today we are living “in two different realities,”?

Biden’s executive order on immigration is a perfect example. The GOP and the convict Trump tell us it’s a desperate act that will destabilize the border and cause national security concerns and Biden is at fault for all the trouble along the border. That not only ignores the last 40 years of problems, but we give Trump equal time while simply ignoring the fact that it is members of the GOP doing Trump’s bidding in Congress who delayed on two separate occasions a bipartisan agreement to help fix the problems along the border because Donald Trump wanted to blame Joe Biden for the problem. “Of course it’s an invalid, inaccurate criticism,” National Security spokesman John Kirby explained. “What’s destabilizing is the refusal by some in Congress to accept the hard-won compromise in the senate.”

Another example of the “two realities” is how we in the press constantly report on Joe Biden’s perceived mental state, but rarely say anything about Donald Trump’s. The Biden administration fired back Wednesday at a Wall Street Journal article in which Kevin McCarthy alleged Biden was “slipping,” and yet rarely do we see anything about Donald Trump’s rambling incoherence at his many staged events.

Jon Stewart would have you believe we in the media believe there is “no such thing as reality,” and thus we promote “multiple realities.”

“We do not live in multiple realities,” Stewart explained.

He is correct about that, but he’s wrong about the media.

Meanwhile, other pundits tell us that the media and politicians are in bed together. That’s also wrong. 

The truth is there is only one reality, most of the press has no idea what it is and are incapable of reporting on it. We’re not “in bed” with politicians unless we’re assault victims. Every President, beginning with Ronald Reagan, who oversaw the dismantling of the free press,  has contributed to the demise of the Fourth Estate and contributed to the current dilemma. The politicians have all the power and took away the public’s right to know as it promised media groups greater profit for ceding the power of the press. 

In short, what you see on the media landscape today is the result of more than 40 years of government deconstruction, an inability by media companies to understand growing technologies and a healthy desire by the government to control the press – and they know how to appeal to greedy media companies who only care about the bottom line above all else.

So, while there are more than twice the number of people on this planet as on the day I was born, there is a quarter of the number of reporters and a mere handful of companies supplying what passes for news content.

The owners may think they’re in bed with politicians, but they are not members of the club. They are kept men and women – or pets that are intimidated and manipulated by their owners – the politicians. The rest of the press – those who actually do the news gathering - are either under-educated, lack the acumen and experience to do their job or are guided by their own hubris. Of course, they could be all three. Most of the trained reporters simply do not have what it takes to do their job – but the owners don’t care as long as they make money. And they make money by hiring people too stupid to do their job. 

H.L. Mencken warned us nearly a century ago about “chain-store” methods of journalism and the “eager swallowing” of propaganda done by journalists “in the face of the plainest evidence of its falsity.”

There is nothing new to any of this, except that the internet has enabled propaganda to spread more viciously and thoroughly as the numbers of independent reporters dwindle to a mere handful on the planet. 

Our president is in France this week paying his respects to those who died trying to keep the world free from tyranny and oppression and made the ultimate sacrifice in the D-Day invasion. We had to take the fight to foreign shores 80 years ago. Today that fight is here, on our own land and led by our own people.

Convicted felon Donald Trump is a liar. The media is complicit in his dangerous grift to control and own the soul of our nation. Good Christians, atheists, poor, rich and what’s left of the middle class have given their money and time to this grifter. Their efforts are legitimized by a complacent media powerless to do anything.

Break up the media monopolies now. Diverse ownership leads to a diversity of opinions. Competition leads to better fact-finding. Education is the key. AI isn’t the problem or the solution. People are both. If we want different results we have to change the way we do business.

And I don’t care if this garners me respect from those for whom I have no respect. Facts are facts. Change the media now or there may be no tomorrow.

By Brian Karem

Brian Karem is the former senior White House correspondent for Playboy. He has covered every presidential administration since Ronald Reagan, sued Donald Trump three times successfully to keep his press pass, spent time in jail to protect a confidential source, covered wars in the Middle East and is the author of seven books. His latest is "Free the Press."

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