Unethical crusades

Our Dishonest President, Times Editorial Board, Versa Press, Inc., East Peoria, Ill., 2017, $7.99, 112 pages.

Our Dishonest President has been repeatedly promoted in one-quarter page advertisements in the Los Angeles Times. The ads, which appear with a large image of the book’s cover, read:

The immensely popular series of editorials by the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board delivers a formidable and indispensable critique of our nation’s current leader. Los Angeles Times Store. SHOP NOW at latimes.com/president or call 866-622-7721.

The book’s introduction states: “The harsh, deeply disapproving six-part editorial series that is reprinted in this book was written because the Los Angeles Times editorial board concluded that the new president of the United States poses a threat to democracy, a threat to the institutions this country has spent hundreds of years building and a threat to America’s moral standing in the world.”

The first piece in the series, entitled Our Dishonest President, was published April 2, 2017, and was subsequently viewed more than 4.6 million times. That so many sets of eyes saw the lead editorial is indeed astounding. That particular editorial, and the five others comprising this book, are compellingly written and full of examples and details. Together they constitute crusading editorial journalism at its finest, and for that the Times is to be applauded by readers of every political ilk seeking to know more of their president.

Unfortunately, such a series was insufficient for the Times Editorial Board, which says in the third page of this book’s introduction, “But piecemeal, one-at-a-time editorials began to feel insufficient.”

Now with 4.6 million individuals seeing the first editorial and millions more consuming the five additional editorials, why did the Times feel the need to publish and extensively market and promote this series once more in a book?

At $7.99 per copy of a book also distributed for free, the Times was not going to make a financial fortune by printing Our Dishonest President. We’re not talking capitalistic greed. We are, though, talking over-the-top self-righteousness.

The role of the press is to present news in a truthful manner, and to analyze and editorialize as necessary. It’s not the media’s job to go beyond that role, but rather to understand the public has been adequately informed. Anything else simply is overkill — and unethical.

By like token, it is irresponsible for the media’s various ethics accountability tools to be biased. Ethics codes, press councils, ombudsmen, media reporters/critics — and journalism reviews — are not crusading vehicles. Rather, they are meant to promote fairness in the media. It’s unfortunate that all such accountability tools seem to be on the decline.

Just as it is improper for the LA Times to market a book promoting its own opinions, it is inappropriate for a journalism review, including Gateway Journalism Review in its electronic weekly newsletters or quarterly magazine editions, to relentlessly and repeatedly roil against a president. It’s one thing for a review to analyze how the media respond to a Donald Trump and how he deals with and treats the press; it’s totally something else to self-righteously batter and bash this president or any other public official with whom it disagrees.

Neither newspapers nor journalism reviews should abuse the freedom of press and speech privileges with which they have been constitutionally provided by engaging in inappropriate, unethical crusades.

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