The ever-insightful Martin Gurri offers his take on newsrooms choosing to be advocates over fair reporting.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, the Times stumbled onto a possible answer. It entailed a wrenching pivot from a journalism of fact to a “post-journalism” of opinion—a term coined, in his book of that title, by media scholar Andrey Mir. Rather than news, the paper began to sell what was, in effect, a creed, an agenda, to a congregation of like-minded souls. Post-journalism “mixes open ideological intentions with a hidden business necessity required for the media to survive,” Mir observes. The new business model required a new style of reporting. Its language aimed to commodify polarization and threat: journalists had to “scare the audience to make it donate.” At stake was survival in the digital storm.
The cult of the imperial U.S. presidency has come to feel like a national religion in the last decade and change. Whoever assumes the executive title also inherits icon status: There were Obama “HOPE” t-shirts, Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats, along with bumper stickers, flags, and Catholicism-inspired prayer candles featuring pols in saintly postures. Cries of “My president!” have become commonplace among a certain subset of online political types, sending a queasy message that whoever holds the office is a paladin worthy of hero-worship.
Indeed, I feel the presidency has too much power these days. You can see it in the number of executive orders coming out of the White House and Congress’ deference to the President’s agenda.
Or kill someone without due process.
In a 2017 federal lawsuit, Bilal Abdul Kareem alleged that during the previous year, while working as a journalist in Syria, he was nearly killed on five separate occasions by attacks closely resembling U.S. drone strikes, including at least one strike from a Hellfire missile of the sort used on U.S. drones. He came to believe that he had been placed on the federal government’s secret kill list, and speculated in his complaint that he may have been mistaken for a member of al-Qaeda or another extremist group because he communicated with militants on his cellphone during his reporting.
His complaint asked the government to disclose five things in order to have meaningful due process: (1) whether the government had made a determination to kill him; (2) if yes, if it actually tried to kill him; (3) the process by which the government decided to target him; (4) the factual basis for deciding to target him; and (5) whether he was still a target. The government did not want to answer any of those questions and refused to even confirm that the U.S. engages in targeted killings via drones. It argued that Kareem lacked standing to sue, that his case raised nonjusticiable political questions, and that the state-secrets privilege allowed it to withhold answers to questions like Has this American citizen been placed on a list of people to extrajudicially kill if possible?
[Emphasis from the article.]