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With Asides, A Point About Detachment

June 21, 2015

It’s the Trump matter. Again.

Reporters, it seems to us, have turned into the Absurd Police. They’ve taken it upon themselves to call out Trump for everything he says or does that is absurd. They are acting as enforcers, prosecutors and judges of Rules for the Absurd.

For example, the Daily News keeps writing about Ten Outrageous Things Donald Trump Said in His Announcement Speech. Even though that speech was given almost a week ago, that story is still featured on the paper’s website as if it happened yesterday.

That Trump said things that are derogatory to immigrants really seems to have really bothered reporters. Never mind that the entire Republican field, save Pataki, has said similar things.

That Trump arranged for people to be in the crowd is said to be an outrage. Never mind that every other candidate essentially does the same thing. Pataki even rounded up his old staff.

A larger question now: Sometimes reporters will don their Absurd Police badges and blow their whistles with great vigor, other times not.  What explains the difference? On this point, we consulted a retired newsman, a guy who is venerated in state media circles.

“Why do reporters rush to expose and denounce absurdity in one situation, but not another?” we said.

“Be more specific,” he said.

“Trump’s circus is immediately exposed as a circus, but something else, say, Schumer’s umpteenth frivolous Sunday news conference, is covered seriously. Why?”

“Trump is a TV personality.  Schumer, despite the occasional clunker event, is a thoughtful guy and major player in DC.”

“Aren’t both showmen? And isn’t it the case that what they say should be reported with some level of objectivity?”

“Both might be showmen in a sense, but there’s a gulf in terms of substance. On your second point… you have a point. I’d argue yes, you should never give up your objectivity.”

“Man, there is a God! So, we’re not nuts about this? The ridicule of Trump was wrong, right?”

“I think so. In fact, I’m uncomfortable with the whole Twitter attitude today. I read your post. I don’t agree with all of it, but on the essential point, yeah, I think you hit that.“

“You can quote an authoritative source saying that Trump’s speech was absurd, but you shouldn’t, as a reporter, make the pronouncement yourself.”

“Exactly. It’s a certain mindset that you have to hold onto as a reporter. I never let myself think: “That’s absurd or that’s outrageous. I never let myself be personally outraged or excited by anything a politician said.  What I did instead was think to myself: “This (comment) is going to be a problem for him, or this (comment) will probably serve him well.  But that was the extent of it. I always tried to be detached.”

“What’s happening to the profession, the craft, the calling?”

“It was always a business, but it’s more so now.”

Our friend went on to articulate how Trump covered objectively simply wouldn’t produce the same interest as Trump’s supposed outrageousness.

(Our friend was also sharply critical of the LCA for letting Cuomo duck the media in recent days. “How does it happen that he’s not holding availabilities to provide updates on leader’s meetings?  That’s absurd to me. And he’s getting away with it because they let him!)

Our friend, toward the end of the conversation, asked not to be portrayed as an old reporter being overly critical of the younger generation.

“Include my perspective, but don’t make it about me,” he said.

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