For all of the hand-wringing by the news media about President Trump whipping up contempt for them, they are missing a much larger overall point. Conservatives have always disliked and distrusted the mainstream news media. This was at the core of Rush Limbaugh’s popularity in the 1990’s, the conservative blogosphere in the early 2000’s, and conservative media today.
Last week, something hit my “on this day” page on Facebook that made me smile. I posted about a May 2012 Herald-Times editorial whining about “The H-T watch,” a website set up by the IU College Republicans with the primary voting records of Herald-Times staff. What made this hilarious is that the CR website was launched in 1996, so the H-T was literally still complaining about it 16 years later – long after everyone involved had graduated, moved away and probably forgotten all about it.
Of course, Donald Trump was not on the radar to be running for anything as a Republican in 1996. Trump was still a Clinton-supporting Democrat back then, so you cannot blame Donald Trump for a bunch of 20 year old college students jabbing at the local news media. This points to an uncomfortable reality for the news media: Conservatives have considered the news media to be untrustworthy and biased for decades now, and the only place to put the blame is on the news media itself.
Yes, Donald Trump has helped sharpen Republicans’ criticism of the media, but if the media wants to know why they are distrusted on the Right they should take criticism of their coverage seriously. When the news media goes so far as to exclude conservative voices from their opinion pages (even anti-Trump conservatives) they intensify that distrust and dislike by telling us our opinions are not worthwhile and should not be permitted in civil society. Of course, they will not listen. They will continue to be biased and reckless with the facts, which will increase tribalism in news consumers. That is bad for everyone.