I think I’m a member of the Mainstream Media. At least red-faced people keep pointing their fingers in my face and telling me that I am. And I think I’m supposed to feel chastened today. A presidential candidate who collected, by some estimates, more than a billion dollars in free MSM coverage has been bellowing about my unfairness for weeks, and has just won election to leadership of the free world. This, I am told, is my comeuppance.
Perhaps. Though I have to say, I’ve tried for years to wrap my head around this notion of a “mainstream media” that is deceiving and manipulating the public and hiding “the truth.” I only know that I and the unbelievably dedicated and underappreciated people I’ve worked with in various settings around the country for 40 years have sought to universally portray authority and question it, to provide a 360-degree portrait of life in our community and world, from the harsh texture of political debate to the comforting enrichments of leisure, education and entertainment. We haven’t been perfect, At times, we’ve fallen short of our expectations for ourselves, and we’ve made plenty of mistakes, all of them right there out in the open for all the world to see. But we’ve always placed the highest premium on balance, fairness, completeness and community service.
And we have done that in an increasingly complex, increasingly competitive information environment. People have gained easy access to more sources of information than they ever had before, and they’ve made use of them. Among other things, they’ve made the Fox News Network one of the most watched — and according to some reports, one of the most trusted — sources of news and information. Yet, Fox is not mainstream. I am. WikiLeaks is not distorting the portrait of our community. I am. It is I of the discredited mainstream media who is manipulating the minds and actions of “the people.” Is that logical?
Even staring into the quivering nubs of those angry fingertips, I’ve never felt such power and influence. Certainly never sought it. Now, I’m supposed to feel chastened. “The people” have spoken and repudiated everything I — or more accurately my little corner of my profession — stand for.
Well, OK. I’m listening. And I’ll continue to.
My little corner of my profession, I hasten to add, has reported this chastening and all the events leading to it. The people I work with have striven — some of them with little or no sleep since voting began on Tuesday — to tell the story of the election thoroughly, deeply, broadly and honestly. And, we’ve done our best to provide an open and welcoming forum for a wide range of reactions to it.
I am not sure how any of this makes us deceitful. I am not sure how it defines us as “mainstream.” I only know that it is what we have always done, and what we will continue to do. All reasonable people should be able to see themselves, their dreams, their hopes and their efforts in the Daily Herald, and all should be able to engage with all others, civilly even if passionately, on our pages.
Providing that opportunity is what we do. We will continue to do it under President Trump. That is our commitment and our duty, as surely as it was under presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford and beyond. I don’t know if that makes me and the people I work with “mainstream.” I do know that it’s only that that makes us proud.
Jim Slusher, firstname.lastname@example.org, is an assistant managing editor at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jim.slusher1 and on Twitter at @JimSlusher.