Liberal Magazine To Acosta: Your 'Performance Journalism' Is Only Helping Trump

Posted: Aug 09, 2018 5:35 PM
Liberal Magazine To Acosta: Your 'Performance Journalism' Is Only Helping Trump

CNN’s Jim Acosta has become the favorite punching bag for the right. He and his network is a constant target for President Trump. He’s tried to fight the administration, every time he gets slapped down. Trump told him directly during one press spray in the Oval Office to get out. Even the White House staff knows how to deal with Jim.  Senior Adviser Stephen Miller took him to the woodshed during a presser about the Trump White House’s changes to our immigration policy concerning green card applications last year. From North Korea to the recent rally in Tampa, Florida, Acosta is being trashed. He then gets his television hot, where he laments how he feels like he isn’t in America anymore when people heckle him. Not everyone is receptive to this form of “performance journalism.” Former CNN producer Steve Krakauer called his antics embarrassing, while former MSNBC host Dave Shuster pretty much told Acosta to cut it out. Acosta had tweeted he was sad that Press Secretary Sarah Sanders didn’t declare that the press wasn’t the enemy of the people after the Tampa rally. Shuster more or less said suck it up, buttercup. Oh, and you’re hurting journalism:

Hey Jim Acosta, the job of a true journalist is not to be sad or happy by what happens in a press briefing room.  It is to ask questions and report facts about what was said/not said.  Your feelings, antics, + self-promotion are hurting journalism, not helping it.   Enough.

The Atlantic recently published an article that Acosta is, well, doing it all wrong: 

…acknowledge this also, please: Whenever a reporter who has not been kidnapped by terrorists, shot by an assailant, or won a big prize becomes an actor in her own story, she has lost the fight. Or in this case, reinforced the corrosive, cynical, and deeply dangerous feedback loop that has convinced Trump’s most fervent supporters that his relentless brief against the press has merit: FAKE NEWS! SAD!

These are parlous times for a free press, and any reporter who defends First Amendment values and virtues should be applauded. I’m loath, as a brother in the trade, to criticize Acosta or his motives. But as that subversive British student of free expression Noël Coward once memorably put it: “There’s a right way, and a wrong way; there’s a weak way, and a strong way. Take it easy. Drive with caution when the road is greasy: Wait a bit, wait a bit, Joe.”


So Acosta had, in one sense, ample cause to ask Sanders if she subscribed to her boss’s Stalinist view of the press. “I … I … ,” he said, revving up the first-person pronoun before declaring, “I think it would be a good thing if you were to say right here at this briefing that the press, the people who are gathered in this room right now, are doing their jobs every day, asking questions of officials like the ones you brought forward earlier, are not the enemy of the people. I … I think we … we deserve that.”

When Sanders began to respond, Acosta—who bears a passing salt-and-pepper-haired resemblance to George Clooney— interrupted her repeatedly, finally allowing her to reply, with a quavering voice while visibly consulting prepared talking points on the lectern in front of her, that she had been personally attacked by the media, mocked for her appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first press secretary in history to require Secret Service protection because of public harassment. All regrettable, of course, but a word cloud irrelevant to the matter at hand.


Acosta’s confrontation—so florid, so vivid—also plays directly into Trump’s received narrative about a hostile, combative, and even unfair press. It’s an uncomfortable echo of Dan Rather’s famous 1974 exchange with Richard Nixon, when an audience at the National Association of Broadcasters’ meeting greeted Rather’s mere introduction with applause (and scattered boos), and Nixon inquired, “Are you running for something?” Rather bowed his head in a humble-brag way before rejoining, “No, sir, Mr. President, are you?” prompting a frozen skeleton’s smile from Nixon.

The last thing Trump—or the press, or the public—needs is another convenient villain in the performative arena of the long-running reality show that is his administration. Acosta’s broadside blurs the line between reporting and performance, between work and war, at a time when journalists have a greater obligation than ever to demonstrate that what they do is real, and matters—and is not just part of the passing show.

Oh, of course, liberals found this article problematic.  And it seems Acosta doesn’t care, given that his appearance on Late Night with Stephen Colbert was a rather funny exercise in a lack of self-awareness. You see, Jim doesn’t want to be part of the story; that’s why he’s not really out there. Dude, really (via The Hill):

CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta told Stephen Colbert that reporters are "not supposed to be the story," adding: "That's not why I'm out there."

“Do you worry that the president points at y’all so much and there’s a natural need to respond as a human being that you end up being the story when that’s not really the goal of your journalism?” Colbert asked Acosta on the CBS "Late Show" host Wednesday night.

“We’re not supposed to be the story, you know. That’s not why I’m out there," Acosta responded. "I get accused of that from time to time, and my attitude is ‘Listen, I’m allowed to care about this country as much as anybody else.'"

This circus will keep going, folks. Bet on that.