A nearly 50-year campaign of vilification, inspired by Fox News’s Roger Ailes, has left many Americans distrustful of media outlets. Now, journalists need to speak up for their work.
I’ve devoted much of my professional life to the study of political campaigns, not as a historian or an academic but as a reporter and an analyst. I thought I’d seen it all, from the bizarre upset that handed a professional wrestler the governorship of Minnesota to the California recall that gave us the Governator to candidates who die but stay on the ballot and win.
But there’s a new kind of campaign underway, one that most of my colleagues and I have never publicly reported on, never fully analyzed, and never fully acknowledged: the campaign to destroy the legitimacy of the American news media.
Bashing the media for political gain isn’t new, and neither is manipulating the media to support or oppose a cause. These practices are at least as old as the Gutenberg press. But antipathy toward the media right now has risen to a level I’ve never personally experienced before. The closest parallel in recent American history is the hostility to reporters in the segregated South in the 1950s and ’60s.