Paul Hampton

Don’t fall for that head fake, get to know a journalist

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.

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.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton

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