Why the “real” media matters

The ongoing saga of Donald Trump Jr. and his meeting with a Russian national offering “dirt” about Hillary Clinton reinforces as never before the importance of story-telling longer than 140 characters.

Set aside for a moment the irony of the Trump team being caught using email to apparently launch an attack on Clinton’s own emails and explore the bigger picture here. Dogged reporting by The New York Times (which beat a clearly energized Washington Post in this instance) has turned a “nothing burger” into a much different story than the White House was viewing it as recently as Saturday morning.

Make no mistake, the Trump administration is acting out of fear when it attacks as #fakenews the steady drumbeat of stories about Russia, Valdimir Putin and its faltering agenda. The reporting, with one or two notable exceptions, has been outstanding.

That’s the reason why the White House communications shop has restricted audio and video coverage of press briefings and why Trump himself has refused to meet the media, even in situations that have traditionally offered at least limited availability.

It’s also the reason why Trump has personally attacked reporters, media personalities and publications on Twitter, a medium where he controls the message and, increasingly, who has access to it. It’s also why Trump Jr. opted for Sean Hannity to mount his defense.

Yes, the diehard Trump base continues to revel in his willingness to take on the reviled MSM. Yet it is an increasingly flawed strategy as Trump and his aides contradict themselves on issues ranging from the Putin meeting to health care debates.

It is also becoming a flawed legal strategy as Trump Jr. will realize in the days ahead because of his decision to try to beat the Times in a “transparency” bid and post his email exchanges on Twitter. No need for Robert Mueller to issue a subpoena these emails.

We’re getting ever closer to the P.T. Barnum moment about how often you can fool people (also to his thoughts about the birth rate of suckers). And the reason is the hard digging by reporters not content to take PR spin in 140-character bites.

Now’s not the time to let up. And it is definitely time to support news organizations willing to commit time, energy, human and financial resources into the pusruit of truth.

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