WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Exposing Those Who Exploit Fear

Aug 16, 2016

A piece on the Columbia Journalism Review website suggested that just as Edward R. Murrow called out U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) for exploiting fear in the 1950s, journalists today should be pushing back against Donald Trump for exploiting fear – and that increasingly, reporters are doing just that.

Shop Talk’s Rich Egger asked fellow panelists Jasmine Crighton and Jonathan Ahl whether reporters should push back or if they should stick to the facts.

Crighton said journalists should call out those who lie for their own gain, and she said the Trump campaign has demonstrated an aversion to the truth.  She said reporting on that is sticking to the facts.

Ahl said reporters who have pushed back against Trump’s exaggerations have been attacked by Trump supporters and in some cases have been banned from covering his campaign events.

Ahl said he’s concerned that audiences are not interested in learning facts but rather want reporting that goes along with their preconceived notions.  And he said that’s the way reporting was once done – for many years newspapers were quite opinionated and many towns had newspapers that sided with either Republicans or Democrats.

Crighton said major networks such as CNN and Fox rely too much on talking heads to bloviate about issues instead of sending out reporters to dig up facts.  She said the networks like panel discussions because they’re cheap and easy to produce.

Egger said the bottom line seems to rule with network executives.  As the CJR article noted, Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS, was quoted as saying “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS” in regard to the ratings generated by coverage of Trump’s campaign during the run-up to the primaries.