Trump not the first to battle media bias

Trump not the first to battle media bias

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Trump not the first to battle media bias

The news media has turned into a political party battling President Donald Trump. Journalists have hurled attacks against the president complaining about his income, nepotism, calling him a “Liar” and blaming him for racism and gender bias. Yet the news media is guilty on all counts, from outrageous incomes to nepotism and even lying. But worse, the news media and media bias fuels both racism and gender bias against women. The media hypocrisy is outrageous

By Ray Hanania

President Donald Trump has vowed to change the White House relationship with the mainstream news media and expand access to include new media following a week of biased coverage from the mainstream news media.

And I think Trump is justified.

The news media has been wrong on almost everything, from politics to the attendance at his inauguration. Instead of discussing the media’s biased coverage of the inauguration crowd size issue, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos (a former top aid to Bill and Hillary Clinton) called Trump a liar on his Sunday morning show. The news media also lied when it repeatedly asked why Trump was making an issue of the crowd size when it fact it was the news media making that an issue.

It’s amazing how far the biased news media has gone to impact an election, which is not their job.

Trump’s fight against media bias isn’t a new one. It happened before, in Chicago, and I was at the front lines of that storm.

No one in the major media believed Jane Byrne would crush the Chicago Machine and Mayor Michael A. Bilandic in February 1979, but she did. At first, the news media tried to ignore Byrne’s candidacy, covering it as a sideshow of local politics. But Byrne shocked everyone from the Machine politicians to the media writers when she turned the February 1979 election upside down.

Jay McMullen, husband of former Mayor Jane M. Byrne, with Ray Hanania weeks after threatening to punch the author in the nose. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania. 1979

Jay McMullen, husband of former Mayor Jane M. Byrne, with Ray Hanania weeks after threatening to punch the author in the nose. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania. 1979

Byrne defeated Bilandic in the Democratic Party primary and then went on to win the General Election.

Byrne’s biggest battle, though, was not with the politicians who quickly came to her side, but with the news media, and that is Trump’s challenge, too. Byrne failed in that war with the news media, constantly facing criticism and ridicule from journalists, but in Trump’s case, he can succeed.

The political side of Byrne’s administration was one issue, but the news media exaggerated their criticism nonetheless. Although Byrne began as a “reformer,” she eventually flipped and embraced the very “Evil Cabal of Men” she denounced during her campaign in less than six months after taking office. Byrne made “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak and the Chicago mob her Council leadership abandoning her reform Council Floor leaders believing they were inept.

Byrne didn’t really have a choice. Her “reform” allies turned out to be turncoats who were secretly conspiring to replace her with Richie Daley, the son of the late Mayor and Chicago “Boss,” Richard J. Daley. When Byrne realized her supposed “allies” where actually trying to do her in, she was forced to switch sides.

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Vrdolyak told Byrne upfront that while Richie Daley wanted her job, all he (Vrdolyak) wanted was power.

(As you know, Richie Daley eventually did become mayor, but many years later.)

Byrne’s first anti-media outburst came in August 1979 in response to a column I wrote that detailed her plans to oust Cook County Circuit Clerk Morgan Finley. Finley broke a promise to hire her husband, Jay McMullen, two years before.

The column angered McMullen who threatened to punch me in the nose. “I don’t need my wife to fight my battles,” McMullen yelled when he called me in the City Hall press room in response to the column. But his wife, now the Chicago Mayor, was tough. She did fight his battles, blaming the story on media bias. But, she also fought her own battles with the media, too.

Within one year, Byrne was fighting all the media as the media ignored the bigger story of the former “Bosses” son seeking to takeover and instead the media concentrated on her new political alliances. Byrne retaliated against the news media in much the same way Trump has vowed to respond, and she ordered City Council Sergeant-at-Arms Michael J. Coletta to give 10 more community news outlets access to the already crowded City Hall Press Room. She wanted to punish the media regulars who covered City Hall on a day-to-day basis, and also open up Chicago politics to the community and ethnic news media that was and is often still marginalized by the mainstream news media and by many politicians.

The Chicago City Hall press room had desks and telephones for myself, the Tribune, Sun-Times, WIND Radio, City News Bureau and the Defender. An ante-room had desks for WBBM, WMAQ and WBEZ radio. The added desks left no room to maneuver, but it didn’t work.

Although Byrne invited the community and ethnic news media to cover City Hall and “compete” with the Hall’s regular media by giving them desks and telephones, Chicago’s first woman mayor was decades before her time. The community media didn’t have the resources and couldn’t sustain the access. Eventually after nearly six months, the added and empty desks were removed.

There was no Internet, blogs or social media at the time available to the public or to politicians to circumvent the mainstream media’s biased reporting or to reach Chicagoland’s massive public audience.

The personal computer was very new. I brought the first lap-top to City Hall in 1979. The Tribune and the Sun-Times soon followed. Eventually, the media was mastering computer technology. (And I eventually continued covering Chicago City Hall for the Sun-Times).

But that’s the key difference for Trump today. With the Internet and social media giving the public the power not only to post stories but to report facts, post videos of news events, and comment as widely as the Washington Post, Trump doesn’t have to be hostage to the bias of mainstream news media reporting, the way Byrne was.

Trump can give his news to the alternate media of bloggers and Twitter scribes. He can expand the media access to his administration and give that access to not only community and ethnic media writers who rely on Internet presence, but also to other bloggers and writers who challenge the mainstream news media’s obvious bias and lack of ethical reporting.

Trump can Tweet his releases instantly to 15 million followers and writers who can provide more objective coverage of his administration. He can ignore the big media networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, WGN and even FOX, and all of the newspaper giants like the Tribune, Washington Post, New York Times and more. That’s why the news media talking heads have been criticizing Trump for his Tweets, as if they don’t Tweet themselves.

The bias against Trump began long before he won the election, something that every media predicted not only would not happen but “could not” happen. It did happen, embarrassing the mainstream news media and calling into question the media’s polling, which critics rightly claimed was slanted.

Of the nation’s top 100 newspapers, only 2 endorsed Trump for president over Clinton. Their predictions and analysis were wrong. Why should he continue to cater to them?

Trump doesn’t have to give the media free space, telephones or Internet access at the White House. He doesn’t even have to give them rooms to work. They’re owned by big corporations and they can afford to pay.

Why should the taxpayers be forced to provide these benefits to the corporate-owned mainstream news media, a class of people whose salaries are often a thousand times greater than the national wage average. (To view a list of the salaries paid to many in the major news media, click here or visit my personal website at TheDailyHookah.com.)

The smaller, community and ethnic news media is the media that needs support from government officials to balance the scales of fairness. That includes the independent media that have traditionally been excluded from the White House by the major media and complicit administrations who control access.

The White House Correspondent’s Association decides who covers the White House and where reporters sit pushing smaller media to the back of the room almost ensuring their questions are never answered.

At his second press conference, Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, intentionally avoided selecting the mainstream news reporters who traditionally dominate the news coverage and work together in a form of press room pack journalism to decide what news actually becomes the focus of their media coverage.

In a way, those privileged media elitists can block stories that are of interest to the public from being reported, and slant stories against a politician to cater to their own reporting biases.

Trump should invite independent journalists and columnists to cover his administration. Spicer has said they might add a Skype option to allow independent writers to not only cover live press conferences but to ask questions, too.

Put the independent bloggers and community media in the front rows of press conferences and you are putting the interests of the public in the front row. Push the privileged and elitist news media to the back of the room and government can push back against the biased and often racist reporting that dominates the mainstream news media’s failed journalism practices. Tell Stephanopoulos he’s out and ignore him. Watch how fast his Sunday morning news ratings drop.

This would encourage more diverse news reporting and more competition, something lacking today. It would also provide a more balanced news coverage of government to weaken the power that a small handful of privileged media elitists now have to manage what goes out as news.

Unlike Chicago Mayor Jane M. Byrne who failed in her efforts to neutralize news media bias in the 1970s and 198s, President Donald J. Trump can win by using the Internet media that was not available at that time. The times are different. The traditional media has weakened. The public is hungry for balanced reporting rather than opinion-commentary that is falsely sold as “objective” reporting. The Internet allows officials like Trump access to a huge audience.

That would be good for America.

 

(Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist, feature writer and author. He covered Chicago City Hall  from 1976 through 1992. Permission is granted to republish column in its entirety with full attribution. Email him at rghanania@gmail.com with comments. Hanania writes on Middle East issues for TheArabDailyNews.com and on mainstream issues for TheDailyHookah.com.)

This post has already been read 64 times!