The mainstream media has done some good things in adjusting to the new realities of Donald Trump’s presidency. CNN turning its chyrons into instant fact-checkers comes to mind as one of the best examples.
However, when it comes to Donald Trump “saving” American jobs, the mainstream media is simply retweeting our President-elect. The deal with Carrier was the first sign of trouble, as Trump “saved” around a thousand jobs by giving away about seven million dollars in state tax breaks to Carrier that even Sarah Palin decried as “crony capitalism.”
When news initially broke, CNN ran with headlines like Carrier victory bolsters Trump's economic chops and How Donald Trump got Carrier to stay, with the latter's lede being “Carrier is getting a modest $7 million in financial incentives over the next 10 years from the state of Indiana to keep 1,000 jobs at an Indianapolis plant, sources familiar with the deal tells CNN.”
A “modest” seven million? The article never elaborates on why seven million dollars is a modest amount, other than one quote from Nathan Jensen, a professor at the University of Texas: “It's clearly a small deal. But you have a business that made a threat getting $7 million it doesn't need.” This piece follows the traditional, yet bogus model of “playing it down the middle” and not taking any sides, while stating everyone's position without discerning who may be right. It's access journalism at its finest, and actual journalism at its worst.
Yes, in the context of billion-dollar state budgets, seven million is a small percentage; however, simply dismissing a large sum of money like this as “modest” without providing any context as to why it's a worthwhile investment downplays the central part of the deal. That seven million is our money (well, it's only “ours” if you live in Indiana, but you get the point). Millions of dollars are not trivial matters when taxpayers are on the hook—no matter the context. If this is actually saving jobs, where is Trump's proof?
Once we got a full picture of the Carrier giveaway a week later, CNN headlines were more realistic, like Carrier to ultimately cut some of jobs Trump saved. The problem is that whatever is reported first is usually what sticks in the public consciousness. Journalistic organizations are used to elaborating on nuances farther down in their story, but research has shown that about half the people who started reading this piece have made it this far. If you're printing a headline that does not represent the facts of the matter, it doesn't matter what you write in the story. That's the harsh reality of what the internet has done to human nature.
We are currently witnessing a similar saga play out this week with Sprint and OneWeb.
Instead of going the route of crony capitalism, Donald Trump is simply taking credit for a deal that was already done—the only thing the man knows how to do with any efficiency is slap his name on things that aren’t his. In October, Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. agreed to a $50 billion investment in Sprint and OneWeb, and it was announced on December 19th. Trump had nothing to do with any of this, but you wouldn’t know that by some of the headlines coming out of mainstream outlets. Reuters nailed their headline: Sprint, OneWeb say 8,000 jobs announced by Trump are part of SoftBank pledge. However, this only came once they initially wrote that Trump says Sprint to bring 5,000 jobs back to U.S.
Simply repeating what the president says is no longer reporting the news (and I’m not sure if it ever was). It makes matters even worse when an outlet like Reuters reported on the deal nine days prior to Trump saying anything about it.
This is straight propaganda, folks. The CNBC’s, CNN’s, and Fox News’s of the world are largely dependent on their access to remain legitimate, as their journalism has taken them down several notches in the public eye. When forced to choose between keeping their connections and doing their job, so far, many of them have chosen to kneel at the altar of Trump, leaving the rest of us in the dark. If this trend continues into his actual presidency, the mainstream media will become even less discernible from the government agenda it used to thoroughly vet.