Mark Grimm


Trump and Journalism’s Death Spiral

Mainstream American network and print journalism is in a death spiral (First though, this caveat. Journalism is a thousand voices and each voice should be judged individually on its merits). That said, come on people. How can anyone watch the nightly network news, or CNN or read the NY Times and not concede they have declared war on President Donald Trump.

They have reason to be defensive. Trump has launched an all-out assault on their credibility. But their response — to wage a battle to the death attempting to destroy him — makes them even less credible. They should answer President Trump the old fashion way, by being as fair and objective as possible (even if they can’t stand the guy). That is the only way they will restore their tattered credibility.

CNN reporter Jake Tapper looked into the camera and told the president to “stop whining” and get to work. The NY Times printed an opinion piece with a headline questioning if Trump was “a threat to democracy.” Yes, Mr. Trump’s biting personality is unprecedented in the Internet age, but so too is the media coverage. It’s never the media’s job to get back at anyone. At least, it shouldn’t be.

Let’s be clear, I’ve never been blind to the President’s flaws. The adolescent side of Mr. Trump, who spent his first full day in office complaining about crowd size estimates, or spent a week feuding with the parents of a dead war hero, has added a match to the burning hatred that consumes his critics. They have the right to protest from now to doomsday if they wish. But the press should not be part of the chorus. My own local newspaper actually did an editorial asking duly elected Trump delegates not to vote for him.

Media managers used to hide behind the “we have reporting and we have opinion pieces” defense. That line has been obliterated. Reporters routinely opine on the very stories they cover. Many major media outlets have now decided to cater to the audiences that agree with them. For example, imagine the difference in viewership between Fox News and MSNBC. News networks and major papers have become opinion news more than journalism. Mr. Trump has accelerated this death spiral but he did not start it.

Journalism has morphed into something else. The profession’s declining credibility could not have come at a worse time for it. In the 21st century, people are increasingly getting their news from each other, often from friends they agree with on most issues. The truth is nearly every network and every major newspaper has an agenda and none of them is truly objective (C-Span remains a rare exception).

There’s a silver lining. There are still many people in journalism who remain dedicated to the pursuit of the truth. I’ve worked with many of them. They must operate in this difficult environment. It is up to us to get our news from as many sources as possible and reward the ones that do the best job at being fair and objective. We can provide this badly-needed incentive. They are the ones that must survive.

Mark Grimm is a former TV news anchor/reporter, media professor and radio host who runs a public communication business.

Speaking Coach Previews GOP Debate

GOPDebateGraphicThe first GOP presidential debate tomorrow night is unpredictable. That’s why such a big audience is expected.

A New Hampshire focus group conducted by pollster Frank Luntz produced “an explosion of passion” that Luntz labeled “one of the best focus groups I’ve ever done.”

As a speaking coach and former elected GOP official, here’s what to watch for:

1- Can Donald Trump appear both brash and thoughtful? Trump’s lead in the polls can be attributed to his striking a nerve on illegal immigration and his anti-establishment persona. But knocking over the apple cart isn’t enough. Presidential candidates have to be capable of fixing what’s wrong. He must convince people he has the right temperament to handle the most sensitive, and dangerous, situations. Personally attacking people will harm him with voters in the middle, the ones he would need to be a viable general election candidate.

2- Jeb Bush is in the opposite position. He’s a thoughtful, serious man who can put people to sleep. He has to show passion and convince primary voters he’s got the fight to take on Hillary. He has to be more than Bush Three.

3- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has to show he’s up to the task on foreign policy. Iran, Moscow, North Korea — they are a long way from Madison, Wisconsin.

4 – Each of the remaining candidates needs to carve out some niche that resonates with primary voters. Clarity counts.

How well the three Fox News moderators handle the 10-candidate showdown is anyone’s guess. It won’t be easy, especially with The Donald.

Like I said — unpredictable.

Mark Grimm is a professional speaker, speaking coach and former GOP Town Board member who has made hundreds of media appearances as an analyst. More on his political consulting can be found here.


Trump As Debate Moderator? Get Real!

Donald Trump hosting a GOP presidential debate may seem like a bad joke, but the joke will be on any presidential contender who participates in this farce on December 27th.

Trump has already “played the media” for far more publicity than he ever deserved regarding the presidential race. Yes, the media is drawn to colorful characters because they attract viewers and readers, but why would any serious presidential candidate take part in the Trump show? As long as we have body bags coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq and nine percent unemployment, we can agree the presidency is serious business. Pandering to Donald Trump will make any Republican candidate look weak and lessen the chances any one of them will beat Barack Obama next year.

One might ask, “What exactly are Trump’s journalistic credentials?” Is highlighting fights between Omarosa and anyone else who comes near her one of them? To their credit, contenders Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman have refused to take part in the Trump debate. Trump responded by calling Paul a “clown-like candidate.” A Paul spokesman said, “the selection of a reality television personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be watching is beneath the office of the Presidency and flies in the face of that office’s history and dignity.”

Who’s the clown?

The writer is a Republican elected official and political consultant.

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