Todd weighs in on the debate over the media

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In talking about the differences between the current president and the news media, keep this in mind:

Every president, no matter who he was or which political party he came from, has had his differences with the news media.

And the news media, whether its members were conservative, liberal or somewhere in the middle, has printed articles or broadcast stories critical of whichever administration was in office at the time.

I'm sure someone will take issue with this, but there were stories in the "mainstream media" critical of then-president Obama. As I pointed out in a blog a couple of years ago, one dispute the Obama administration had with the traditional press was with Bob Woodward of the Washington Post-yes, Bob Woodward of Watergate fame.

But the sparring that has taken place between the month-old Trump Administration and the press-conservative and liberal, traditional and modern-has no precedent. Even the "media-hating" Nixon administraiton was not at war with the press this early in the Nixon presidency.

It should be noted that this may simply be bringing more people into the media's tent.
Just before the inauguration, the three major cable news channels all had double-digit increases in viewers in the weeks leading up to when President Trump took office. That is, increases from the beginning of 2016, when the presidential primaries were just beginning. And a couple of weeks ago, Fox News had the first nine of the top ten prime-time cable shows-that's cable, not just cable news.(Does that mean people like watching a train wreck? Just wondering.)

But now, two of Fox's main anchors have publicly aired their differences with the Trump White House and its assessment of the media: Shepard Smith through a commentary, and Chris Wallace through his questioning of White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Does this mean Fox will lose audience? Some of its loyal viewers have taken issue with Smith's comments and Wallace's questioning.

Ironically, I have a criticism of the media in general: all of them have focused their main attention since the election on the Trump transition and now, the new administration. Not that they shouldn't have; it's obviously news. But there are other stories not receiving as much attention that might have in other times. The main reason is: the audience is interested. It reads or tunes in, and that means ratings, and, more importantly, advertising dollars-which, admittedly, pay the bills.

I have avoided, in the past, speaking out on the First Amendment, which, in addition to promoting free speech, guarantees Freedom of the Press. Not because I don't believe in it, but because it doesn't justify any news media excess. And the press has had its share of embarrassing moments.

But I also know a free press has an important role in a free society. And when you know whatever we know, that's important, too.