Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trump Started a War He Cannot Win

On Friday, Donald Trump once again lashed out at the news media, this time for no apparent reason. He endorsed a comment by his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, that the media are "the opposition party in many ways."

Trump added, "I'm not talking about all of them . . . but a big portion of the media, the dishonesty, total deceit and deception. It makes them certainly partially the opposition party, absolutely."

That garbled prose seems to indicate that Trump is slightly narrowing the number of his journalistic enemies. Earlier, he exempted no one in a talk at the Central Intelligence Agency. There he said, "I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth, right?"

I'm a journalist. I've never considered myself to be a dishonest person, let alone one of the most dishonest on the planet.

By coincidence, two of the most principled people I've ever been acquainted with, both journalists, died recently. Their passing and Trump's assaults on the profession caused me to spend some time recalling my hundreds of encounters with journalists both as a newsman and as an information specialist in government and private industry. How many individuals do I remember practicing "deceit and deception?" Exactly two.

One was a young television reporter who interviewed me about a Forest Service program. Before he turned on the camera, we agreed that he would not ask questions in one area. To my amazement, his
Trump will be scrutinized as no other has been
second question hit directly in that area. I learned from others at his station that he was totally dedicated to advancing his career, and sometimes bragged about using questionable tactics to enhance his stories. How did that work out for him? Several months after he embarrassed me, he disappeared from the airways and never was seen on television again. Apparently his supervisors did not endorse deception.

The other miscreant was a reporter for a small radio station. He taped a speech I gave at a luncheon following the announcement of the closing of a Job Corps Center operated by RCA where I served as public relations coordinator. I was astounded to hear his broadcast that evening. The tape of my talk had been edited to completely reverse the meaning of what I said. That reporter merely was running true to form. He was opposed to the Job Corps as part of his personal political ideology, and took every opportunity to show the program in a negative light. Certainly, there are people like him associated with media in small and large markets, but I believe their numbers are relatively small.

It's only one person's experience, but two bad apples in a barrel with hundreds may indicate there is little reason to disparage the entire group.

Above all, journalists who follow the code of ethics that guides the profession attempt to be objective. They often fail. Humans develop biases and it is difficult, perhaps impossible, for anyone to completely set theirs aside when reporting events or selecting which items to include in print or programs and how to present the stories. Nevertheless, the true professionals strive for personal integrity in their work and balance in the products.

When anyone, especially a person who frequently displays his own lack of integrity, accuses journalists of deliberate dishonesty he is making a mistake. I take Trump's remarks along those lines as a personal insult, and I've been out of the workaday information business for a long time. You can bet many in the media are going to have more than the usual struggle to keep their anti-Trump biases under control. They will try to treat him fairly, but they also will be extra diligent in their responsibilities to serve as watchdogs over government, and they will pull no punches in their reporting.

Mr. Trump can expect to see a whole lot of reports such as the one that appeared in the January 24 New York Times under this headline: "Trump Won't Back Down From His Voting Fraud Lie. Here Are the Facts." An editor who had not been insulted by the major player in the story might have created a more kindly label, yet it is not "dishonest and deceitful."

Trump's assaults on the media ensure his activities will be scrutinized as no other president's have been. Every move will be reported, and not kindly. Who will win this "war"?  We might get a clue from an historic figure who participated in many wars: 

"Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets."--Napoleon Bonaparte


Monday, January 16, 2017

Let's Do Lunch--Got Three Dollars?

It's mid-January, and much of the annual bad economic news for retired geezers is in. The meager cost-of-living increase in my annuity and social security payments was eliminated by increases in medical insurance premiums. Gasoline prices and our annual auto registration fee soared, courtesy of hefty tax increases imposed by our Michigan legislature. Property taxes also increased. Yes, state and my local governments are under complete Republican control. Those are the same guys who preach, when running for election, that they will spare no effort to cut taxes.

Lesser items not subject to political control also increased in cost, or are projected to do so. What's a poor retiree to do? Of course, it's the American way to combat bad news by ingesting a heavy dose of comfort food. That's just what I did, although to feel completely comforted I had to hold the cost to a minimum to blunt effects of the rising costs of just about everything else.

Aided by some advance actions, my net cost was $3.18 (including sales tax) for a very satisfying (and
What made America fat--hard to resist at any price.
quite unhealthy) midday meal at the local Burger King. The lunch featured a Whopper sandwich (regularly priced at $4.48), french fries, and a good-sized coffee blended to my specification.

Normally, that meal would have cost nearly $7.00. How did I get it below half price? First, I spent about five minutes filling out an online customer satisfaction survey after a previous visit to Burger King. That got me a coupon for a free Whopper. Then I used a gift card bought online at a 13 percent discount to pay my tab. Next month, I'll knock another 1 percent off the meal cost because I paid for the low-cost gift card with a credit card for which I always get at least 1 percent off all purchases by paying my balance every month.

I had to visit a store right next to Burger King for a necessary purchase, so no transportation costs were involved in getting to my comfort luncheon. And, on the way out I picked up a free copy of the local weekly newspaper, courtesy of Burger King. It costs 75 cents at the supermarket next door. So we might say my net luncheon cost really was less than $2.50. But that's a bit of a stretch, so let's stick with $3.18.

Don't worry, I'm not going to reduce my life span by changing to a diet dominated by burgers and fries, even at three bucks a meal and no matter how tasty the comfort food is. I'll keep my healthy standard items on the menu--tuna or chicken chef salads. Now where can I find discounted gift cards for tuna and chicken?