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Columnist Natalia Muñoz: National media must dig deeper for true stories

  • This image released by NBC shows Rachel Maddow, host of "The Rachel Maddow Show," on MSNBC. Maddow was at the center of the political media universe on March 14 with a story on President Donald Trump’s tax returns.  AP FILE PHOTO



Monday, March 20, 2017

For the most part, the national media can’t quite tell the truth about the “liar in chief.”

There are exceptions. On MSNBC, Lawrence O’Donnell calls 45 a liar often. He repeats the lies because the job of a journalist is not to be a stenographer; it’s to put information in context.

Joy Reid has been on the truth from Day 1. Andrea Mitchell was also ready from the beginning. She is relentless, digging for truth. She asks the Secretary of Oil Interests a bunch of questions at photo ops even as he pretends to not hear.

MSNBC is on a roll: Mika Brzezinski questions the president’s sanity. Joe Scarborough, formerly Trump’s morning-senior-adviser-on-television, has run out of ways to show exasperation.

Then came Rachel Maddow, too smart and honorable for click-baiting. But recently she succumbed with a cringe-worthy countdown clock at the bottom of the screen leading up to a big reveal about the president’s tax returns. Finally, Maddow showed the world … two pages from his 2005 taxes.

Two pages? From one year? What does that tell us about the man in the White House besides that he is wealthy and paid taxes in 2005? What were the deductibles exactly? What did he own in 2005 that could give us context to what those numbers represented? Ten skyscrapers? Ten square miles of Manhattan? Ten hotels? Is there an editor in the house? Does anyone care about journalism over there?

The big reveal is that MSNBC, just when it was looking like the only national for-profit news channel that was not selling liberalism to Fox’s conservatism plus the growing assortment of lying liars with popular websites and podcasts, but just selling plain, old journalism, we get a big nothing of a story presented as something.

In other words, fake news.

The for-profit national media continues selling the kind of information that led to the Electoral College results of Nov. 8 that empowered bigots to criminalize Muslims and Latinos, deepen the mortal danger that blacks face every day, turn back the clock on gender equity, put the world on notice that the use of nuclear bomb is once again possible, just like it was in the 1950s, when America was great, according to Trump et al.

A lot of us can’t risk the effects of the click-baiting. Truth takes a back seat to ratings cash, and the rest of us pay. And the smug elitism of a certain type of liberal that boos and hisses whenever other liberals say things they don’t like to hear. Flashback to Bernie bros dumping on Hillary through social media.

Bernie Sanders spat allegations of corruption about Hillary Clinton because she gave a few speeches on Wall Street. Did Sanders ever prove his point? Show us exactly how those speeches compromised her as a senator or secretary of state? The gaga eyes the media made at him, so taken by his curmudgeonly ways, meant that questions weren’t asked, nor evidence required. They didn’t push him on why he voted for mass incarceration, nor why his Senate staff was all monolingual white. No, he got a free ride to impugn Hillary, whose staff has been diverse since her days as first lady of Arkansas, and to glorify himself.

Every time someone says that Hillary focused too much on what was wrong with Trump, only a few know for a fact that most of what she said went unreported. You just had to look on YouTube and other sites for the parts in her barnstorming stops where she spoke again and again about health care, opportunities, good-paying jobs, the whole progressive enchilada we were so excited about.

Instead, stories on her email server and Bernie’s unsubstantiated attacks satiated people with an ax to grind against Hillary in particular, women in general. On social media, fake news rocketed above real news. Its audience of uninformed and raging voters, too many of whom had a hissy fit on Nov. 8 because Bernie wasn’t on the ticket (the privilege of white voters strikes again) found comfort in lies.

And still today, too few in the national media dig for true stories. But that is exactly we need.

Dig, dig, national media, like you’ve just connected with a fastball and can already tell you will make it home. Go big. We’re waiting for you, hands at the ready for the high-five.

Natalia Muñoz, of Northampton, is host of “Vaya con Muñoz” on radio station WHMP (1400 AM).