Friday, May 11, 2018 at 7:19 AM

Nicholas Kristof, the Martin Luther of Journalism…?

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

It might seem preposterous to even suggest that any journalist is as much the conscience of journalism as Martin Luther was of Catholicism. But Nicholas Kristof might be worthy of such praise.

Kristof is a New York Times columnist and winner of two Pulitzer Prizes – for reporting (1990) and commentary (2006). Therefore, his voice is every bit as respected and influential as Luther’s was.

More to the point, Kristof’s “Our Addiction to Trump” indicts his profession in 2018 much as Luther’s “Ninety-five Theses” indicted his religion in 1517. Here are just a few lines from the former, which should compel the kind of soul searching among journalists the latter compelled among Catholics.

News organizations, especially cable television channels, feed off Trump — like oxpeckers on a rhino’s back — for he is part of our business model. …

I worry that our national nonstop focus on Trump is helping to usher America into a hole: a Trump obsession. …

That’s pathetic.

(The New York Times, May 5, 2018)

Yet, with all due respect to Kristof, this smacks of an opioid addict reflecting on his addiction, during a moment of sobriety … before taking his next hit. And blaming Trump for this addiction is rather like that addict blaming fentanyl … after years of using everything from marijuana to heroin.

It shall redound to his profession’s eternal shame that neither he nor any of his peers had the presence of mind to preach about the wrongfulness of their Trumpian addiction before it became an epidemic.

This is why I hope Kristof will forgive me for suggesting that, if he’s a latter-day Martin Luther, then I’m a latter-day John the Baptist. Because I actually had that presence of mind.

As testimonials, I refer you to such timely and holistic sermons as “Journalism Is ‘Having a Very, Very, Pathetic Moment,’” November 13, 2013, “CNN Boss Is What’s Wrong With Journalism Today,” May 10, 2014, and “Humping Trump Exposes News Anchormen as Worse than Used Car Salesmen,” May 2, 2016, which includes the following seminal excerpt.


I was in the vanguard of those decrying this tabloidization of the news. Not because it exploits primal fears and desires; but because it betrays the news media’s role as a public trust. …

Which brings me to the news media’s mercenary coverage of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Remarkably, they report every thing he says as “Breaking News”, especially the Tourrete-like insults he hurls at other candidates. …

The news media have become so focused on chasing profits that chasing news has become a distraction. Only this explains the networks and cable news channels abandoning coverage of Obama’s historic trip to Cuba to cover Trump’s umpteenth campaign rally. …

Media bosses will honor this Faustian bargain. This, even though they know full well that a Trump presidency ‘could destroy the country.’ CBS President and CEO Les Moonves summed up this mercenary coverage in Barnumesque fashion as follows:

It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS…

The money’s rolling in and this is fun.

(The Hollywood Reporter, February 29, 2016)

His corporate glee stands in dismaying contrast to GM CEO Charles Wilson’s patriotic vow (in 1953) that what was good for America was good for General Motors and vice versa. It also indicates how much the fourth estate has lost its way.



Related commentaries:
Pathetic moment
CNN boss
Humping Trump..

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