It was, ah-hem, a pivotal moment. Not-yet-president Donald Trump was at the Coast Coliseum in Biloxi eviscerating a TV cameraman for refusing to turn his camera to show the size of the crowd.
I had felt a little uneasy on the job many times. Wading through floodwaters. Running or driving a bit too fast down an icy street. Standing out in a lightning storm. Getting too close to a house fire.
But the Coliseum scene was more than uneasy. It was one of those times I felt like joining the chorus that from time to time questions my sanity. The crowd was giving the media pen the stinkeye. And the media was greatly outnumbered.
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But Trump, as he often does, changed subjects and the crowd turned back to the podium in admiration. I said a word of thanks that the parking lot I’d soon be sharing with them was well-lit.
It may have been, it turns out, the high-water mark in media relations with the president.
Most presidents have testy relationships with the press. Trump drives the press to distraction.
He has turned #fakenews into a national obsession. Want to see an active Twitter feed? Search fake news.
Post a photo of a cat with the annotation “this is a cat” on Facebook. Someone will redirect the conversation to the nuclear deal with Iran. Then someone will label a comment on Iran fake news.
Journalists have been helpful in turning “the media” into a meme, CNN particularly so. Three people lost their jobs in late June over a particularly bad story, one the network retracted.
That is how journalism works. I try to get everything as close to perfect as I can but perfection remains a speck on the horizon. I’d settle for excellence, a goal I’ve hit a few times. I make mistakes. I admit them. I try to rectify them as best I can. I move on.
After almost 40 years inside the news business, all of it in newspapers, the only surprise is how well newspapers report the news. We cover a chaotic world under ulcer-inducing pressure.
Normal people pull back into the driveway to make sure they remembered to turn off the stove, or didn’t lock the dog in the bathroom. I wake up in the middle of the night terrified because I didn’t double-check the spelling of Tchoutacabouffa.
Media elite, indeed. People make no distinction these days. It’s just “the media.” I wish they’d be discerning. I’ll take my licks for misspelling a candidate’s name. CNN can take its own.
And I wish they would get to know a journalist before labeling them the “liberal media” or the “lying media.”
My phone number appears at the bottom of most stories. Feel free to use it. I promise I’ll answer if I’m not busy scouring the house for my phone.
One fellow called me early Sunday morning and I absentmindedly said hello, expecting a friend or relative. “Oh,” said the guy on the other end. “You answered.”
He wasn’t exactly satisfied at the end of the call but I did convince him I don’t have a pointy tail.
And today, as I wrote this a customer called. She said she loves the Sun Herald but may have to resort to drastic measures if she can’t get someone to send her a bill each month. I think I helped her out.
Just like good old days, when circulation problems were one of a paper’s biggest worries. Back then, they had the mythical money-printer’s license. And I was throwing papers, occasionally on roofs.