Media outlets underachieve on a terrible, no-good day

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


Most drop the ball on coverage on a day democracy nearly died 

Wednesday’s attempted coup by President Trump and his allies brought out the worst and when everything was said and done, four people were dead and there were calls for him to resign, be impeached, or invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him. Perhaps the biggest statement of the day was the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board – whose is conservative as it comes – called for President Trump to concede or resign.

Either way, it made for an unforgettable – or to put it more bluntly, basically forgettable day in American history – one that will be talked about for years.

Here’s a cliffs notes version of what happened – twelve Republican senators and over one hundred house members planned to raise objection to President-elect Joe Biden’s certification of victory in November’s election, claiming there was voter fraud when there was no evidence of it. Trump, who said the election was rigged and stolen from him without proving any evidence, urged his followers to come to the Capitol to protest Wednesday. He addressed the crowd shortly after 11 a.m. Central, and while Congress was in the process of certifying the election, his supporters stormed and entered the building.

Not surprisingly, media coverage of the events was blasted by viewers on social media. Just like last year when Chicagoans – especially African-Americans, criticized media coverage of rioting and looting in the city on two occasions, it seems no lessons were learned of this magnitude.

Especially singled out on social media was Fox News, whose prime-time hosts downplayed the chaos taking place earlier in the day. Joining in on the fun was Sinclair Broadcasting, who led off a report stating the right-wing protests may have been infiltered by left-wing groups (a tweet below this paragraph from a Sinclair reporter in an earlier post was deleted.)

And if it weren’t the slanted coverage, it was who they put on the air. On NBC, Chuck Todd was being a clueless dolt, while ABC News felt it had to haul out former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who added nothing to their coverage in a completely brain-dead move. Then came the scheduling decisions – while NBC and ABC blew out their primetime lineups, CBS aired a Young Sheldon rerun (before going back to coverage) while Fox had The Masked Singer and the premiere of Name That Tune, a revival of a the 1970s and 1980s game show. There’s nothing like guessing who’s in a beaver costume when democracy is burning down. 

And worse, a lot of news outlets went with the false notion Antifa and BLM were disguised as Trump supporters without doing much, if any fact checking.

Not all coverage was mediocre. CNBC brought in the always reliable Shepard Smith to anchor for a few hours, while locally, WFLD’s Mike Flannery – a Washington D.C. native, got passionate on the air calling for the arrests of the rioters. And WTTW’s Chicago Tonight did an outstanding job of breaking down today’s events with a local focus.

And as for the reporters and journalists out in the field…God bless them, trying to do their jobs under very trying circumstances.

Elsewhere, WGN America’s NewsNation signed on early and went wall-to-wall while its WGN Chicago counterpart did the same locally including all of prime-time. Locally, the three major O&Os didn’t get to air much of anything as their regularly scheduled newscasts were blown out by network coverage.

The platforms most people were complaining on weren’t spared either as Twitter and Facebook were also blasted. Both later suspended Trump’s accounts, at least for the time being.

One thing that needs to be talked about here is the continuation of media consolidation as newspapers continue to close, local news stations eliminate positions, and local radio is now basically programed by a server in Antarctica. Many broadcast groups – particularly Fox, Nexstar, and Sinclair, have lobbied the GOP to loosen the ownership rules so they can buy more stations as they are friendlier to their interests than Democrats are – thus the often soft media coverage of the party, even when they are trying to end democracy as we know it. And as we all know, the “liberal media” and “fake news” stuff Republicans talk about is nothing more than a smokescreen. Trump’s FCC helps in this cause by eliminating the local studio rule, meaning your local newscast in Toledo is now produced out of South Bend. 

Regarding those broadcast networks, all you have to see is what they pulled in October over one of the Presidential debates, as informing voters wasn’t as important as a silly and stupid morning show war most people don’t care about. As I said back then, broadcasters have all but abandoned the public interest in pursuit of chasing ratings at time when democracy is falling apart.

The lesson learned here is our media outlets for the most part completely dropped the ball Wednesday on one of the darkest days in our country’s history. While CBS 2 recently proved there is still a need for a free and viable press, there are others who don’t seem to be up to the challenge. Or want to.


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