Small town news publisher and editor Gary Abernathy called the media’s “martyr complex” “embarrassing” in a scathing op-ed published in The Washington Post on Thursday.
Speaking from his experience taking fire from unhappy politicians at the Times-Gazette in Ohio, Abernathy said the media would do well to ignore or deal with Trump’s criticisms internally, rather than exploding into a frenzied rage at every insult. Or those outlets could respond to criticisms of bias by pointing to examples of fair coverage, Abernathy said he has when his paper has been similarly criticized.
“News outlets, whether in big cities or small towns, are not synonymous with the First Amendment,” he wrote. “We are organizations that depend on the First Amendment to do our jobs, but that hardly makes criticism of us — even aggressive attacks from the president of the United States — out of bounds.”
“If the day comes when members of the mainstream media can prove Trump wrong through the evidence of their work, the president’s attacks will lose their steam,” he added. “That day is not here.”
Dismissing the media’s Russia coverage as “the definition of overkill,” and lamenting CNN’s response to Trump insulting the network in a “harmless” meme on Twitter, Abernathy argued the media would do well to stop obsessing over relatively trivial matters related to Trump and take a more measured approach to coverage of the president. Fox News, he noted, responded to frequent harsh criticism from the Obama White House with a typically lighthearted tone (and the wider media largely ignored the digs altogether).
“Trump doesn’t deserve favorable coverage,” Abernathy wrote. “All he deserves is fair and honest coverage. But even liberals can’t argue with a straight face that he’s wrong about mainstream media bias.”
When a local politician demanded a meeting with the Times-Gazette, Abernathy noted the paper in no way bowed to the pressure, but opted to handle the criticism internally and not put up a big public fuss.
“Fortunately, our publisher held firm, and we continued to exercise our right to call it as we saw it,” he recounted. “And we didn’t use our news pages to portray ourselves as martyrs for the First Amendment. Publicly, we ignored the incident.”
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