On the Friday morning edition of his show “Morning Joe,” the conservative political pundit recounted a story from the newsroom of a national newspaper in the wake of Donald Trump’s surprising victory:
“There was somebody that held an extraordinarily important position in American media, in print media who brought their people together after Hillary Clinton lost and literally said: ‘We did the best we could do. We tried and we failed. But we did the best we could do.’ And there were people crying in this newsroom, I’m not going to say which newsroom it was, it was a very big newsroom.”
When panelist Mike Barnicle jokingly observed that the size of the newsroom narrowed the possibilities down to three newspapers, Scarborough affirmed: “You’re damn straight I am.” The clear implication was that the episode took place in the newsroom of The New York Times, The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal.
There’s no way to confirm Scarborough’s story is accurate, especially as it was apparently related secondhand. However, it’s not hard to imagine that supposedly objective journalists were distraught over Donald Trump’s victory. Or, that one of their bosses would openly admit that they were consciously trying to sway the outcome of the election with their coverage.
True or not, the anecdote matters because it illustrates the gaping partisan divide that not only separates people’s political views, but affects their perception of the credibility of the mainstream news media. It can no longer serve as an impartial arbiter or watchdog when half the population views it as profoundly biased and untrustworthy.
That's a big deal, since a free press is a bulwark of democracy.
Such alienation creates an opening for “alternative” news providers, including the peddlers of fake news – who are, after all, no more or less credible than the “legitimate” news providers in the eyes of their readers.
In short, if two news providers are both obviously attempting to influence your opinions while claiming to only be reporting “facts,” why not choose the one that more closely aligns with your existing beliefs?