A recent poll by the Economist asked two questions of Democrats, Republicans, and independents: whether they trust President Trump more so than various mainstream media outlets, and whether they favor shutting down or fining media that report biased or inaccurate stories.
Not surprisingly, a majority of Republicans stand by the president – who is that party’s leader if not its ideological standard bearer – more so than not only the left-leaning New York Times and Washington Post, but also the right-leaning National Review, Weekly Standard, and Fox News Channel.
A quarter to a third of independents also trust Trump more than any of those outlets, but only about 10 percent of Democrats feel that way. The more disturbing data are the results of the second question. Almost half of Republicans favor shutting down media that report biased or inaccurate news.
So do about 30 percent of independents and 20 percent of Democrats. When it comes to the comparatively less draconian alternative of fining them, the percentages of those who favor such measures rise an additional 5 to 10 percent in each group.
In a sense, such results are not particularly shocking when considering that despite Trump’s approval ratings being at a record low this early on in a presidency, they are leaps and bounds higher than what the American people think of the media.
Nonetheless, it is one thing to blast the media for bias and shoddy reporting, and another to favor fining, or, worse yet, censoring them.
We are tireless advocates for the canons of journalism, which include emotionally and ideologically detached reporting in news stories, with robust debate from as many voices as possible saved for the opinion pages.
We criticize shoddy and agenda-driven reporting, and continuously strive to steer clear of it in our own publications. But we also categorically denounce any censorship or fining of the press. If a certain media outlet’s reporting is inferior, let the people speak with their voices and their wallets.
Let them criticize it openly, and cease patronizing it. But do not deny it its constitutional right to exist, regardless of whether its quality is up to par.
During the 2016 president campaign, as part of his vow to secure the border, Candidate Trump often said “if we have no border, we have no country.” We can say the same as it applies to the media: “if we have no free press, we have no country.”
It is understandable that much of the public is disgusted with how certain longstanding mainstream American media outlets appear to be more slanted nowadays, and there is speculation as to how much of it is ideologically driven and how much is to attract readers or viewers.
But we are heartened that even to the extent that their concerns are valid, there remain publications and broadcasts that continue to be first-rate. In any case, as unfortunate as it might be to be informed by an imperfect media, it would be even worse to live in a society where the government can shut it down.