Prof. Krugman must be out of the country, or having insomnia, because this was posted at 3:09 AM today. Here’s “A Lie Too Far?”:
I suspect Donald Trump is feeling a bit sandbagged right now, or will be when he wakes up. All along he has treated the news media with contempt, and been rewarded with obsequious deference — his lies sugar-coated, described as “disputed” or “stretching the truth,” while every aspect of his opponent’s life is described as “raising questions” and “casting shadows”, despite lack of evidence that she did anything wrong.
But the print media appear to have finally found their voice (which may shape cable coverage over time). The Times and the AP, in particular, have put out hard-hitting stories that present the essence in the lede, not in paragraph 25.
What’s so good about these stories? The fact that they are simple straightforward reporting.
First, confronted with obvious lies, they don’t pretend that the candidate said something less blatant, or do views differ on shape of planet — they simply say that what Trump said is untrue, and that his repetition of these falsehoods makes it clear that he was deliberately lying.
Second, the stories for today’s paper are notable for the absence of what I call second-order political reporting: they’re about what Trump said and did, not speculations about how it will play with voters.
Doing these things doesn’t sound very hard — but we’ve seen very little of this kind of thing until now. Why the change?
You could say that the lies were so blatant that doing the right thing became unavoidable. But there were plenty of earlier lies — Trump lying about his opposition to the Iraq War, about his donations to charity, and much more. There was already the unprecedented contempt for the press he showed by refusing to release his tax returns. And all of these were soft-pedaled, with the media spending its main energy doing neener-neener on Clinton emails and the Clinton Foundation. Why did the press hit its limit?
One answer might be the storm of criticism over election coverage, with, for example, the Washington Post editorial page essentially taking its own reporting to task. The Matt Lauer debacle may have helped bring things into focus. And tightening polls probably matter too, not because journalists are being partisan, but because they are now faced with the enormity of what their fact-free jeering of HRC and fawning over DJT might produce.
There are now two questions: will this last, and if it does, has the turn come soon enough? In both cases, nobody knows. But just imagine how different this election would look if we’d had this kind of simple, factual, truly balanced (as opposed to both-sides-do-it) reporting all along.