17 May 2016
Will Trump's nomination disrupt the media balance?
Part of my job at a newspaper office involves transcribing comments phoned in by readers. In the last week, I've heard two of them complain that all the columnists at our paper are against Donald Trump. They want the paper to restore some balance to its editorial page for the general election campaign. While Trump has dominated talking-head TV to an unfair extent in some people's opinion, so far he has few friends in newsprint. The problem for Trump fans is that while my paper has the typical mix of Democratic and Republican columnists -- mostly from the Washington Post syndicate -- the familiar conservative Republican writers remain adamantly opposed to Trump and will most likely prove slower than Republican elected officials to come around. None of them, to my knowledge, is endorsing Hillary Clinton, but they remain unconvinced that a Clinton presidency would be worse than a Trump administration. We can speculate on why they feel that way, but the immediate problem, at least for newspapers, is whether any aspiration to fairness or balance on their editorial or op-ed pages can be maintained when Republican columnists refuse to play their regular role. As noted, some Trump fans are already crying foul over opinion pages becoming #nevertrump zones, but what are papers and syndicates to do? Supposedly Pat Buchanan is available to write for Trump, but who else? Are the syndicates supposed to recruit new columnists whose only credential would be love of Trump? Should they persuade some of their Republican regulars to step aside for the summer and fall for a guest Trumpet? Or should they admit at last that "balance" only ever applied to the bipartisan rivalry within the political establishment, excluding opinions to the left of Democrats, to the right of Republicans, or, if possible, outside the whole left-right continuum? Should they finally admit also that they've never been obliged to represent all sides in political debates? Would doing so teach Trump's followers, and the rest of the electorate, any sort of lesson? Do the Trumpets realize now how little room the opinion establishment allows alternative points of view, or do they think that Trump is entitled to editorial-page representation because he'll be the Republican nominee? Given one caller's complaint that Republicans who criticized Trump were not real conservatives, it's hard to say.