This is the Op-Ed piece I am going to dissect:
The News Isn’t Fake. But It’s Flawed.
So let's take it step by step to see how an Op-Ed piece (a refurbished speech, actually) can be misleading.
First, the opener is all about Donald Trump. The press is frozen and the date was November 2016. Trump won the election, and he beat the press at their own game.
You cannot expect a profession to resurrect themselves for the future when they are stuck in the pass.
And this opening alone shows a bias in the press: they were scarred by Trump's victory, and now everything they report on is a means to try to erase the fact that they had no power to tell people how to vote.
It is the same as if you broke up with a flame, and then they keep harassing you and badmouthing you, calling you evil and crazy two years after you called it quits.
But one of the most oblivious observations came with this paragraph in reaction to the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner:
Tim Alberta, who writes for Politico, correctly noted that “every caricature thrust upon the national press — that we are culturally elitist, professionally incestuous, socioeconomically detached and ideologically biased — is confirmed by this train wreck of an event.” Kyle Pope, the editor of Columbia Journalism Review, pointed out the inevitability of that train wreck, observing that the event itself is “destined to be either sycophantic, on one extreme, or meanspirited, on the other. Neither is a good look at a time when trust in media is tenuous.”
It completely misses the point: the press got off on all those characterizations for decades, and never cared because they were the gate-keepers.
The rigs worked in their favour, and they still had power, even with those insults.
What happened was much more serious than a few bitter insults: journalists never improved their product or methods. They never became a science. They had a professions filled with untested truisms, and when the Internet came along and destroyed the rig that gave them clout, they never found ways to improve their profession, making them vulnerable.
In boxing terms, they never kept their guard up, and it cost them -- making those insults harder to dismiss.
Because the above paragraph is on flawed and unrealistic ground, the next part of the piece collapses:
We’re under sustained attack by a shameless president whose contempt for a free press is profound. And regardless of the merits of that attack, our response is pivotal to surviving it and preserving the public’s trust.
Journalism is archaic. You cannot rebuild trust the way you cannot rebuild a skeleton into a living human being. There is no public trust to preserve -- that is the precise reason Trump won the election in the first place: he is a salesman first, and he packaged the message to fit the zeitgeist. If there had been strong public trust of the press, the results of the election would have been different because Trump wasn't campaigning against the inert Hillary Clinton, he was campaigning against the news media.
Bruni is groping in the dark here, and his argument only gets further away from reality:
In many ways, that response — from excavations of links between Trump and Russia to exposés of the workings of Facebook — has been excellent, a perfect illustration of why journalists are so vital.
No, Mr. Bruni, journalism had its chance. It failed.
It is a perfect illustration why journalism needs to be replaced.
The argument takes a manipulative turn right after:
Because Trump is so hyperbolic — and so dishonest — about our vices, we’re prone to focusing excessively and even exclusively on our virtues. We sing an immodest aria about them.
No, Trump has been many things, but his assessment of the vices of the press have been spot on.
I have written three books on those vices, Don't Believe It! showed how dishonest the press was in countless news stories over the years. From Stephen Glass to using public relations firms as a source to cover everything from wars to corporations, the press has been highly deceptive.
1. By outright lying about the content of stories and who their sources were.
2. By not labelling PR firm materials as such.
3. By imposing narratives on their stories, which resulted in many serious problems, from making WorldComm and Enron looks like legitimate businesses, to painting innocent people such as Richard Jewel into psychopathic killers. This are not minor transgressions. They made over real killers such as Charles Stewart as victims, emboldening police to torment the black community by treating them as potential killers.
My second book OutFoxed chronicled how Fox News presented a partisan narrative as news, but make no mistake: CNN does the same. There are rigs to present a skewed opinion as fact.
My upcoming third book outlines these problems in detail -- from Lara Logan's odious 60 Minutes report to the brazen use of PR as a source in wars. Journalism has been corrupted and broken beyond repair.
And let's not forget that in those same pages in November 1976, Trump was made over to be an American God.
Bruni then tries to justify his own empty columns about Trump, but it is self-serving. He was a follower who joined the bullying chorus of the press, and shows he is not an impartial party to the mass temper tantrum, and no amount of his spinning changes it.
And that alone nullifies Bruni's hypothesis that news isn't fake: using that space to spin and not provide facts, that is as disingenuous as it gets, especially here:
I was trying to cast his coiffure as a metaphor for his inconstancy and obsession with surfaces. But still. I played into a caricature of journalists as smart alecks taking cheap shots from the cheap seats. We have to watch our tone. We really do.
Read: if we have to fake it without being so obvious. We have to be more fake than we already are, so that we can feign shock that our more covert propagandistic swipes are seen for what they really are.
It is too late for that, Mr. Bruni.
The column rambles on for far too long, making me wonder how painful was the entire speech. Bruni does nothing but justify the press's destruction as he blames Trump for everything. So the press's assessments of their enemy are perfect, but their enemy's assessment of them is completely wrong.
The finale is as contrived as it is laughable:
It’s easy to be lulled into a false security by the “Trump bump” in business for many newspapers and networks, whose fans are more passionately engaged than before. But that bump may not last forever, and it doesn’t do away with the misgivings that a majority of Americans have about us.
The so-called Trump Bump is an illusion: a few partisan publications are not, in fact, seeing an increase in traffic. Compare the bump to their numbers ten or even five years ago, the numbers are going down. Media outlets are shutting down. Journalists are losing their jobs at a predictable and shocking rate. There is no "Trump Bump" -- just false hope.
The arrogance of the last word is striking:
It’s also easy to be so fixated on the ludicrousness of some of the charges that the president hurls at us that we fail to improve in ways that he’s not discussing. The news that we report is real. But so is the need to be even better at reporting it.
Journalists would have been far better off realizing their enemy defeated them because his assessment was true. It was not dumb luck: it was strategy based on the correct assumption that journalism was too weak, but its members too blind to see what was in store for them.
It is too late now. The dismantling has already begun.
The news report is not real. The methods and techniques of reporting are flawed beyond repair.
This is how not to write a newspaper column. This is how you go on Judge Judy and lose your court case as she chews you out for trying to pull the wool over her jaded eyes.
With a F.R.E.E.D. method, this column would never see the light of day because the one who wrote it would have been challenged with the facts that undermine this flawed hypothesis.
It is about the facts -- not about trying to make yourself over as a hero and victim...