Media types are getting all sniffy because some goober dealt a BBC cameraman one ‘very hard shove’ at Donald Trump’s El Paso rally on Monday. The BBC released a statement saying the cameraman, Ron Skeans, is ‘fine’ – which most people no doubt assumed he was, because Skeans is a grown man.
The ‘incredibly violent attack’ (as Britain’s state broadcaster is choosing to bill it) took place shortly after Trump pointed to the press pen and said: ‘Wow, look at all the press, can you believe that?’ and ‘They’ve gone down a long way since they started hitting us a little bit, right?’ Inflammatory stuff! The other reporters present were so intimidated, it was all they could do to follow the assailant out of the arena as he was dragged away by burly guards.
A freelance journalist named Rosa Prince penned an op-ed for CNN.com recalling the incident in notes of quiet indignation usually reserved for reporters who are beheaded by Isis fighters, not shoved by diminutive Latinos. Just read the opening:
‘As a cameraman with 25 years’ experience working at the BBC, Ron Skeans probably knows a thing or two about hostile environments. His colleagues have been killed and injured working in war zones and dictatorships the world over. But when Skeans landed the plum job in the corporation’s Washington DC bureau in 1994, he surely didn’t expect to come under physical threat while covering the rarified arena of US politics.’
What happened to him? Was he punched on the sidewalk? Was his van hit with a Molotov cocktail? Was he arrested and publicly hanged as an enemy of the regime? No: he was pushed. If Mr Skeans has any self-respect, he’s groaning into his whisky while his colleagues paint him as a colossal wuss.
I stood in many of Trump’s press pens during the height of the 2016 elections. I was never attacked by his supporters, though now I sort of wish I had been. I was, however, frequently pushed out of the way by other reporters – especially camera crews from major network broadcasters. If Skeans is anything like the dozens of cameramen I encountered on those outings, he’d elbow his way through crowds and plant himself in front of the small-time journos who showed up hours earlier.
And who cares? That’s part of the job. Nobody wants to sit in the back. If Skeans wasn’t willing to muscle his way to the story, he wouldn’t be working for a major news outlet.
This is exactly why Trump supporters dismiss the press as a bunch of self-important crybabies. Let me fill you in on an industry secret: when you get your first job in the media, they don’t screen for moral excellence or courage under fire. War reporters? Maybe (though certainly not always). But the guy who follows Trump around to film his speeches? Hell no. He isn’t a hero. He isn’t doing some great public service. Journalism is just welfare for unbalanced, low-functioning alcoholics – or, as Ms Prince calls it, a ‘plum job’.
Every journalist wants to be the Walter Cronkite or Bob Woodward of his generation. They feel entitled to the public’s confidence and admiration just because they have a press pass. And, if they can’t earn their esteem, they weave these elaborate hagiographies of themselves and bill it as news. They beguile their audiences into ranking them somewhere between firefighters and Navy Seals as men of valor and self-sacrifice. In doing so, they’ve become a bunch of Walter Duranties.