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How media should work

I recently had a front-row seat to a presentation of how media should work in any era. I was in Longwood University’s Wygal Hall on Oct. 11 taking in the first installment of the President’s Lecture Series for the 2017-18 academic year.

I was there to cover award-winning NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik delivering a speech called “Believe Me: The Media, The Public and The Presidency in the Trump Era.”

President Donald Trump has certainly become a frequent target for criticism and jokes, and it often seems he has invited it with some of his unprecedented and startling behavior as a sitting president.

It is worth noting that much of this criticism and these jokes are also unprecedentedly easy.

When George W. Bush was president, the fact that he wasn’t the most mellifluous public speaker was fodder for easy jokes that he was unintelligent.

When Barack Obama was in office, his golf outings led to easy criticism that he was too busy hitting the links to do his job.

Now with Trump in the Oval Office, the level of ease with which which responses are generated has risen exponentially.

The problem with easy criticism and jokes is that they can often short-circuit substantive thought, replacing it with a shallow substitute that can sometimes actually result in “fake news.” Easy responses provoke a chuckle or a quick retort and usually result in a simple reinforcement of one’s pre-existing perspective.

Harder, deeper analysis may still ultimately accomplish that same reinforcement, but at least then it was properly earned.

I believe it is the responsibility of media to take the harder road.

I was pleased to see Folkenflik doing so in his presentation. So he avoided calling Trump a buffoon or a moron or Hitler. He criticized him for some things and praised him for others.

He advocated that the media practice “scrupulous fairness.” I think he was practicing what he preached, and I found him all the more believable for it. I have a feeling the American people would too, in any era.

Titus Mohler is sports editor of The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia. His email address is Titus.Mohler@FarmvilleHerald.com.