Yes, The Big Newspapers Took Political Sides (And It Didn't Work)

In case anyone still doubts the mainstream news media, including all the big newspapers, blatantly favored Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, this anecdotal evidence from MSNBC political pundit Joe Scarborough should provide some food for thought.

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?

7 comments about "Yes, The Big Newspapers Took Political Sides (And It Didn't Work)".
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  1. Donald Frazier from OneVideo Technology, January 20, 2017 at 4:54 p.m.

    Most media professionals are used to keeping their partisan loyalties under control when covering the issues, and this election was no exception.  But this was not about policies.  It wasn't even about loyalties.  It was an election when one side did not believe in the legitimacy of the press in the first place.

  2. Henry Blaufox from Dragon360, January 20, 2017 at 4:55 p.m.

    Jim Rutenberg, who writes the "Mediator" column for The NY Times, garnered quite a bit of attention last year for writing that journalists had to support Clinton in their election coverage. Executive Editor Dean Baquet acknowledged and defended the Times open bias on this, too later in the election cycle. So this story seems credible, and the Times the likely culprit.

  3. Robert Ceier from TMS Inc, January 20, 2017 at 4:57 p.m.

    Very True. Like my Dad always said don't believe anything you hear and only half what you see. Some things never change. 

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 20, 2017 at 5:33 p.m.

    Do you think jounalists, not twits, would want to support the person (debatable) who wants to destroy them and Freedom of the Press ? 

  5. Dyann Espinosa from IntraStasis, January 20, 2017 at 6:58 p.m.

    As a consumer, not a news provider, I can only relate my perception and opinions. Pulling from media sources and platforms across the board, not just newspapers, I felt that every move of Donald Trump's was covered with glee by the press. No other candidate was guaranteed to elicit the controversy, viewers/readers and ratings (=ad sales) as Trump. 
    Here was someone who had come into your living room weekly and portrayed a powerful, no nonsense mogul whose decisions meant success or failure for contestants. 
    Jeff Zucker admitted to giving Trump too much unfettered coverage, with no analysis or equal time for other points of view. And, he said he knew Trump would pull ratings, but, Zucker also said he doesn't regret doing it.
    I don't think the issue is "fake news," I think it's that Trump only knows entertainment. News or journalism is peripheral. And when some news person or news source doesn't like his performance, he is personally affronted and lashes out at that entity. It's not a matter of ideology, as he has changed political positions to suit his interests.
    The "mainstream" media itself is in a serious economic decline, which has made it easier for tabloid-like organizations to become an accepted source of information. That and the mood of the country gave Trump a huge lift that wouldn't have been possible 10 or 20 years ago. Add in Trump's total lack of respect for (or understanding of) journalistic ethics, and you have the perfect storm. 
    Bottom line, Trump was (and is) the life preserver that has helped keep the media afloat. (imho)

  6. Chuck Lantz from, network, January 20, 2017 at 11:06 p.m.

    A journalistically ethical newspaper, or any such news media outlet, can be 100% for or against one side or the other, and still be totally unbiased in everything except their editorial and other commentary sections.  

    That's what journalist ethics are all about, and it's not anywhere near as rare as far too many otherwise intelligent people believe it to be. 

    And please do not dare call me naive. I've seen such journalism in action, from a number of individuals and news outlets, all of whom kept their political leanings out of their work. It actually isn't that hard to do.  All you have to do is be honest. 

  7. William Hoelzel from JWB Associates, January 21, 2017 at 10:31 a.m.

    Look, you may not agree that Trump wants to impose an authoritarian solution on the messy contentiousness of a constitutional government, but if he does, then newspapers rightly challenged his candidacy and rightly opposed him on every front.

    In their news columns, newspapers were determined to report what he was saying so readers could see the threat he presents to constitutional processes and democratic values. In their editorials, they campaigned against him because of the autocracy he is  proposing to create.

    When an arsonist is setting fires across a city, newspapers ought to report every one of them, and they ought to editorialize against arson.    If there were tears in any newsroom, they were tears shed because the electorate did not recognize the impending threat of this arsonist to our democracy.

    You heard the inaugural address:  "allegiance to the United States," "America First," "we all bleed red."  That's not a call to unity, and its not a call to uphold America's principles and values; that's a call for nationalism and tyrany.  "I yhe only onr who can fix it."

    Are you really criticizing newspapers for opposing this vulgar, self-centered, vindictive demagogue?  Are you really contending that newspapers should have been blandly neutral toward a candidate whose words were an assault on women, Muslims, black Americans and ultimately our constitutional system?  I didn't think so.

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