Political Editors / February 20, 2017

The Media That Cried Wolf

The public’s lack of trust in the press is the fault of … the press.

When an adjective designed to convey an exceptional rather than a normative activity, message or event is overused or misapplied, the adjective loses its narrative function. When everything is extreme, then by rational logic nothing is extreme. This is exactly the predicament in which the mainstream media finds itself. Hyperbolic reporting on even the smallest, most insignificant matters and events means the American public is no longer willing to believe the hype. The mainstream media has become akin to that sleazy salesman willing to tell you almost anything just to make the sale.

The Washington Post has become a poster child for this kind of overblown rhetoric. Recently, it “reported” that the Republican Party is hostage to the “fanatical policies of the extreme right.” The Post accused Republicans of having so lowered their standards that they were “ready to forgive … just about anything [Donald Trump does] as long as he wins.” The problem is that a majority of Americans just don’t see it that way. Recent polling indicates that more Americans trust Trump than they do the mainstream media. Why? Well, one reason is the fact that the media has been talking this way about Republicans and conservatives for years now. Remember just over four years ago Mitt Romney was “the most extreme Republican candidate ever.” As was patently obvious to most people, this just was not true.

CBS’s John Dickerson, in an interview with Hugh Hewitt last weekend, discussed Trump’s recent media-chastising press conference. Dickerson offered this insight: “It’s not because of anything obviously Donald Trump did. The press did all that good work ruining its reputation on its own.” He then referenced how the media has practiced overreaction on “every little thing.” So they should heed the old fable warning about the boy who cried wolf. After a while, his credibility was gone. Unfortunately for the media, it’s probably too late.

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