Fair, not crude, public criticism will help keep America great

I had hoped the barrage of crude attacks directed by candidate Donald Trump at the national media was going to slow when President Donald Trump took office.

This week, however, Trump took to Twitter again, this time to ridicule the intelligence, appearance and temperament of cable television anchors Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, co-hosts of MSNBC’s show “Morning Joe.”

“I heard poorly rated @Morning Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came … to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!” Trump tweeted.

Since I’ve never watched “Morning Joe,” I won’t pretend to know what set off this seemingly random Tweet, and whether it had anything to do with the allegations made by Brzezinski and Scarborough about a Trump connection to a June National Enquirer story, headlined, “Joe & Mika: TV Couple’s Sleazy Cheating Scandal,” about the MSNBC co-hosts.

I do suspect, though, that Trump’s tweet had something to do with reported criticism of Trump on the morning show.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Trump has blasted members of the media. Another well publicized feud involved former Fox News personality Megyn Kelly. Before last year’s election he said Kelly “had blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever” after she challenged him during a presidential debate.

Also last week Trump railed against news outlets known for a liberal editorial approach and frequent criticism of the president. “So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS & ABC? What about the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost? They are all Fake News!” Trump tweeted.

Of about 23 tweets Trump sent in the 24 hours before I wrote this column, six tweets were specific criticisms of media personalities or media outlets, news stories and accusations of “FAKE NEWS.”

“I am extremely pleased to see that @CNN has finally been exposed as #FakeNews and garbage journalism. It’s about time!” Trump tweeted in one of them.

Now, I’ll give you that this presidential attack against CNN might have been somewhat warranted. Three CNN journalists resigned last week, triggered by a retraction of a story that apparently incorrectly claimed Congress was investigating links between Trump’s administration and a Russian investment fund. CNN removed the story from its website one day after it was posted.

The fact is, however, the network acknowledged its mistake, withdrew the story and three people lost their jobs. I believe, for the most part, journalists work hard to be fair and accurate.

Here, Tribune Chronicle editors constantly remind reporters they must make honest attempts to reach sources on all sides of an issue before the story ever sees the light of day. Sure, mistakes happen, but when they do, we correct them.

When the media questions our government, we are serving as the fourth estate and speaking for the public.

That should not be confused with constant commentary and often biased discussion that takes place on national all-day news networks after the actual story is reported. Everyone ­ including the president ­ should realize the difference between reporting and commentary.

Of course, online and social media reaction to news stories can be a logical, unfiltered response to the public. It’s something we, in the media, are learning to expect, even on the local level. And we accept it because we know it’s a freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment for all Americans. In fact, we even encourage it by allowing readers to use Facebook accounts to post their reactions at www.tribtoday.com.

The key is, of course, for all of us to remain professional and reasonable in exercising that First Amendment right, and that, I believe, will go a long way to keeping America great.