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When I taught introductory newswriting at St. Bonaventure, I would ask students two questions about stories they had written: What’s new here? What’s different?

Coverage of President Trump’s press conference last week reminded me of those questions. Reporters told us how contentious the event was, and Trump reprised his “fake news” complaints.

This isn’t news anymore. So why was it part of the coverage?

Two words contain the answer: corporate media. Multibillion-dollar corporations control nearly everything we read, watch, and hear: www.freepress.net/ownership/chart

Their sole goal is to maximize profits. Televising sports is lucrative, and so is turning news into entertainment.

Trump vs. reporters is, in its own way, entertainment. It sells newspapers, drives visitors to websites, and attracts viewers to television shows. The higher the numbers, the more advertising dollars those media attract, and the happier shareholders are.

During his press conference, the president said, “I'm here again, to take my message straight to the people.” It reminded me of something President Richard Nixon said: “The American people are entitled to see the president and to hear his views directly, and not to see him only through the press.”

As New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wrote last week, Nixon said Watergate “would have been a blip” if it weren’t for journalists “who hate my guts.” This sounds exactly like something Trump would say.

As for the press conference, Rod Dreher wrote in the Conservative Review, “I will never, ever get this about Trump: his obsession with the media and how it covers him. He is President of the United States, yet he stood on the stage for a long time, bitching about the media. It’s crazy, just crazy. Hey, I don’t much care for the media either, but this is just nuts.”

Should the media pay attention to something that’s “just nuts”? No. Instead, the media should let the president speak “straight to the people” on Twitter and through mouthpieces like Sean Hannity when he wants to complain about “fake news.”

Freed from rote reporting about the president’s peeves, the media could better focus on the president’s significant words and actions.

As for reporters, they need a reminder of something I learned as a journalism student more than 40 years ago: Reporters should ask questions, follow up, and do their best to be invisible in the process. I don’t care in the least about how the president treats Jim Acosta of CNN.

This is all blue-sky thinking, but while I’m at it, I would ask the media to refocus on what news is, as defined in words attributed (not entirely convincingly) to George Orwell:

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.”

(Patrick Vecchio is a former Times Herald managing editor and retired journalism professor at St. Bonaventure University. He is a lifelong Olean resident and may be contacted at PatrickVecchio@roadrunner.com.)

Latest Month

March 2017

Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”


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