The worst thing about being a reporter in the age of Donald Trump is, of course, the president’s concerted attacks on the free press. The second-worst thing is well-meaning readers who say things like, “Thank you for what you do.”
I mean, I appreciate it. Last week, on assignment in Cape Cod — hardship travel, I know — I thanked myself for what I do with a dip in the Atlantic and a buttery lobster roll. Some of my more frontline colleagues, from Elmhurst, Queens, to Wuhan, China, take physical and psychological risks to deliver information that deserve true gratitude.
But when some of you who are alarmed by the rise of Mr. Trump thank a political journalist or a television pundit, you’re feeding our worst instincts — toward self-importance, toward making ourselves the story and toward telling you exactly what you want to hear. And you’re leading us into a dangerous temptation at a time of maximum pressure on the free press.
“The many mainstream journalists who have been charting Trump’s ceaseless outrages for four long years, myself included, inevitably risk becoming performance artists for appreciative readers who already agree with us,” said Frank Rich, the executive producer of the HBO shows “Veep” and “Succession” and a former New York Times columnist. “You have to wonder if any of it has swayed a single Trump voter.”