August 11, 2016

When Stenography Matters

So I’ve spent a lot time here grousing about stenography.

But the candidacy of Donald Trump is changing the game of journalism a bit — including my game. It’s been easy to point out examples of the lazy reporting I call stenography. But with Trump, I now find it necessary to put a finer point on my grousing.

Let’s use this article in The New York Times as an example. Trump said about President Obama: “He’s the founder of ISIS.” And he said that ISIS “honors” Obama.

OK, so what’s a reporter to do with that?

It’s news. It’s news because a candidate for President of the United States said such a ridiculous thing. But there’s very little you can ask in follow up.

What question can you ask?

I suppose you could ask for specifics about how/why Obama founded ISIS (and risk sounding like a reporter for The Daily Show), but you’re as likely to get a cogent answer as you are to get a invitation to Trump’s next wedding.

And there you have an important distinction between stenography that is reporting the news and stenography that hides the news.

It isn’t stenography to quote the outrageous and let it hang in the air like a fart.

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4 Responses

  1. Guest 
  2. acline 

    Thanks for the link. I thought this quote was particularly interesting:

    “No, it’s no mistake. Everyone’s liking it.”

  3. Guest 

    What if he really does have a cheering section? An audience of trolls, if you will.
    Although given his record, Ockham’s razor says no.

  4. acline 

    Any competent presidential campaign controls the crowd at campaign events. Having been subject to such control as a former member of the press, I’m quite familiar with it. But the Trump campaign?