Retired Highway Patrol LTC. Ralph Biele, a close personal friend, spent many years cultivating and maintaining a working relationship with the press. He socialized with these folks and shared a unique understanding of their role and the role of the agency he represented as the face of the Public Information Division of the Patrol. Being the face of a state police organization can be daunting, however Ralph worked in a different time and place…….where honesty, fact and deadlines were blended in the best interests of the public. On a personal level, and quite by accident, we attempted to emulate Ralph, beginning this courtship with the press by hand delivering summaries of Patrol weekly activities to the print media outlets in Lafayette county, a practice that has long since been rendered inefficient by the instantaneous electronic transmission of information today. Our practice in Lafayette county was given a high priority by our Sergeant, Bob Plymell, who understood the power of folks who buy paper by the ton and ink by the barrel. Have times ever changed!
The media today has morphed into an extension of the philosophy of the owners and managers. Even hard news is editorialized and spun, with the facts being of secondary interest to the moguls who are running this industry. I have always enjoyed the media, especially print media, a facet that is forced to be careful in reporting as their information is indelible…..unlike some of the nationally recognized broadcasters who have offered vague embellishments of their exploits and such, presumably in the interest of making the facts more…..well…interesting. The print media of yesterday tended to print hard news in a relatively factual manner while reserving their editorializing for a page aptly named “Editorials” which served notice to the reader they were about to enter the “spin” zone……where one would be wise to tread with caution. Unfortunately, we now flip a switch and immediately gravitate to a media outlet that is more aligned with our political orientation, and gag when forced to endure an outlet that is counter to our tastes. In the gym that I frequent at zero dark thirty each morning, there is an array of wall mounted televisions to offer relief from the seemingly endless monotony of the treadmill that is mercilessly draining the calories from yesterdays indulgence from my very soul. They are each set on a different mainstream media outlet, MSNBC, NBC and ABC……note, no FOX news. The treadmill, which never takes prisoners, is far more gratifying than the political drivel that one must endure as the endless belt churns away. I would prefer FOX, as they are aligned with my preferences these days, however; they too, miss no opportunity to editorialize on behalf of their political philosophy.
I was amazed to learn that an inordinate percentage of Americans get their daily, and in some cases, perpetual dose of news from Facebook and Twitter. Despite the fact there are virtually no constraints relative to the accuracy of this information, we scroll through and believe. From professional experience, I understand that folks will fill a factual vacuum with substitute information that may or may not remotely resemble the facts in question. Social media is made for this environment……..and has driven the new titillation with “false news” or “fake news” . On the other hand, social media can be a useful and very persuasive medium. Mr. Trump clearly understands this, and has circumvented the media circus today with tweets and posts to his legions of followers, reported to number in excess of 40 million.
Mainstream media is outraged! How dare he not vet the news with their pundits, reporters and networks before going public? It is irresponsible, they say, with our national security at risk, as his information has not been carefully screened by staff and consultants. This outrage should be tempered, as presidents have delivered live press conferences, fire-side chats and other impromptu, unvetted information since the beginning. Mr. Trump, still bleeding from the media inflicted wounds of the campaign, is his own man and I suspect the more they protest, the more they will have to protest about. These days, President Elect Donald Trump IS the news…..and he has a tendency to push back. His pugnacity is one of the reasons he is the President Elect…….
So it is. When a bull wins the bully pulpit, the game changes. It is rather enjoyable to watch the mainstream guys writhe about in agony, gnawing at each other’s ankles, all the while forced to report news that Mr. Trump has already reported. Virtually everyone in America has access to the latest news…in real time…..via their cellphone or tablet. Enter Facebook and Twitter……
It must be difficult to be scooped……..