Ready, Aim, Backfire!
Lemme get this straight.
The president is at war with the press and has been for more than a year, accusing members of the media of being biased against him, of churning out fake news and of being an enemy of the people.
So what do newspapers decide to do to convince the public they’re fair, integral to our republic and deserve the respect of the people? More than 100 editorial boards are orchestrating a joint attack on the president on Thursday. A "coordinated response" they call it.
This is briar-patch-level genius.
Doesn’t matter if you’re pro- or anti-Trump, fact is, this choreographed stunt will fuel the president’s narrative that the press corps is a leviathan trying to bring down his presidency. Worse, it could backfire and result in newspaper cancellations and even boost Trump’s popularity.
Newspaper subscribers - and I'm one - have every right to expect their editorial pages to be independent voices, not members of a whiny Greek chorus.
I have no idea if my former employer is planning to take part in this fool's errand. I hope not.
Let me back up. I spent 42 years as a newspaperwoman. Five of those as a member of an editorial board.
Those five years were the most miserable of my career. And when the paper’s long-time metro columnist announced his retirement in 2000 there were skid marks on the floor as I flew to the news editor and begged for the vacant position.
By that time I’d privately begun to question the value of editorial departments. The very notion that a smug assemblage of anonymous scribes was needed to tell readers what to think seemed cringingly paternalistic.
Newspaper readers are not stupid. If the news is reported accurately, they'll draw their own common-sense conclusions.
I don't like saying this because I have friends who are editorial writers, but those unsigned pieces don't change minds. In fact, they do little more than alienate half the readers and serve as an echo chamber for the rest. They actually hurt the news business.
I do a lot of public speaking and I can tell you that many members of the public tend to conflate editorial and news departments. Readers are often furious with the entire newspaper over bone-headed pieces on the editorial page.
After Thursday, readers will have to decide for themselves if they want to continue to fork over money to publications that appear to be part of a giant political organ, all saying the same thing on the same day.
Remember, if editorial boards can create a "coordinated response," so can subscribers.
Newspapers, be careful.