The News Isn't Broken, We Just Already Know What We Want

The News Isn't Broken, We Just Already Know What We Want

The news has been critiqued a lot over the last few years, and rightly so, but the New York Times tax story is not an example of poor reporting.


I am going to take a brief break looking at the Heritage Foundation and Welfare and look at a story which broke earlier this October. Donald Trump's Taxes. Earlier this October The New York Times released an article detailing their "special investigation" into Trump's taxes, and perhaps the biggest piece of news about it is how little it's been talked about.

In an article titled "The New York Times, Bombshell That Bombed" Politico talks about how and why the article "bombed". And honestly, given how much talk there was about Trump not releasing his tax returns, it is surprising how little this has been talked about. This is a big deal. Trump has lied about a great number of things, both to the people of the US and to the IRS.

The article, titled, "Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father" is well worth a read. It goes into detail about Donald Trump's father Fred Trump, and how he amassed his fortune, with the help of government loans, and suspect tax calculations (to say the least) and then used other dubious methods to filter money to Donald and his siblings. This happened so much, Donald Trump became a millionaire at age 8.

But I didn't want to write an article just summarizing the Times, instead, I think this article, and its contents, show us what journalism is, and what it should be.

There are two journalistic ideas here. One is put forth in the Politico article when they say "A story—no matter how long—about tax evasion is too dry to arouse the public into acts of viral chatter." And the other idea comes from the Times' article, summed up when they say that the myth of Donald Trump, and his wealth, has been "aided and abetted by less-than-aggressive journalism".

The Times' makes the argument that it has been a failure of journalism which has allowed Trump to build his persona of a billionaire, citing profiles of Trump which allowed him to portray his father's wealth as his own. But then the Politico article says that it doesn't even matter since a news story about taxes is too boring for anyone to read anyways.

These arguments reminded me of a discussion that is as long as journalism itself and was identified in the book The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach, and Tom Rosenstiel, to be best exemplified by the journalist Walter Lippmann, and the philosopher John Dewey. They say that Lippman lamented that citizens were too ill-informed by an imperfect press, and were further undermined by their own biases, preventing them from engaging properly with our democracy. Dewey, on the other hand, felt that this idea misplaced the role of democracy. The authors say that Dewey argued that having a democracy meant people were free to live their lives as they choose and that people only acted as "'umpires of last resort' over the government".

In this context, less than a month away from the midterm elections with Trump's approval ratings at 41.8%, the Times'lack of a splash isn't truly surprising. The question you need to ask yourself is, who is still on the fence about Trump. Although we could lament along with the Politico article that more isn't being done, the fact of the matter is that most people have made up their minds, and the one thing that we can do about it, vote, is right around the corner.

The New York Times article is a great read, and I am very glad it was written. And as the Politico article mentioned there have been results, such as "both New York City and state regulators to commence investigations of their own that could ensnare the Trump family in years of consuming legal battles and force them to choke up hundreds of millions in fines and penalties." But anyone who thought that this would make a huge change to our political arena isn't acknowledging the fact that most people picked a side a long time ago. Anyone who would have read and acted on this piece has already decided they don't like Trump, and anyone who is supporting Trump has been doing so knowing he's refused to release his taxes. Now all that's left to do, is vote.

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