Trumps Taxes, Why Do We Care? And Why Are Newspapers Breaking Laws?

Most people don’t realize how important the newspaper industry is to our country. All we hear is that caskets have been picked and funerals already planned for the most significant original news source in America.

Here’s the inside story. I’ve worked for magazines, network news, online publications and for newspapers. Everyone in the industry gets their news from newspapers. FULL STOP.

At ABC News in New York my team divided up all the newspapers in the country. We were each responsibly for reading, or at least skimming a dozen every morning. We then wrote up pitches for stories we thought would be hits for our shows. At morning meetings we talked about the newspaper stories we liked best. Then we justified why we should get to work on the story we pitched. Part of the internal competition was getting your pitch approved by the powers above. If my pitch was approved I’d hop on the phone and try to schedule meetings with the sources from the newspaper story. Later that day, I’d be on a plane heading to the location where the story took place. From that point forward I would build the story based on the information I learned from the sources and spend a week, three months and in some cases producers spend years following the story and putting it together before airing it for our national audience. If we didn’t have the newspapers to curate the information for us we’d have very, very different news stories on television.

Online is not much different. Using information from newspapers, online producers and reporters often come up with new angles for their audiences and re-cover the newspaper stories in a multimedia way for the online audience. Or, as we do on HBLB, we look for the best print stories and offer our readers a few choices based on the original reporting done by others.

Magazines also use the work of local newspaper reporters. Sometimes it’s noticing that there’s a trend happening in different parts of the county that’s been reported by various regional newspapers. This then justifies a big national feature story. It also happens that magazines use local newspapers as source finders. Who did the local papers talk to when they were covering the toxic water in Flint, Michigan or the local kid who saved his family from a burning house? Those then become points of contact for the feature writers working on longer pieces.

As budgets are cut and newsrooms shrink, newspapers become more–not less–vital! I could post another blog entry about why, I think, shrinking newsrooms make the economic trouble worse for newspapers and how they might fix it… but here I’ll suffice to say that everyone is short on time and relying on the original, strong reporting of newspaper reporters to fuels the entire industry. This is not to say that TV, online and magazines don’t do original reporting, they of course do, but often the impetus for the story comes from having read the newspapers…

So what does this have to do with Trump’s taxes? Well, the NY Times was threatened by Trump. If they printed his tax records, which were leaked through snail mail to Susanne Craig, who found them in her physical mailbox, then he would go after them. But the principle that media has a responsibility to keep citizen informed regarding issues that impact their lives takes precedent over Trump’s threats. The NY Times, as the paper of record, has a duty to educated the citizenry. This is an old idea and one that serves a democracy well. Powerful people who impact the public  are not above reproach. A part of the checks and balances in our democracy is a free press.

Why are Donald’s taxes significant to the public? Because his “whole campaign is built on his success as a businessman and his wealth,” Dean Baquet, The New York Times executive editor said during a visit to Harvard in September where he added he would risk jail to publish Donald Trump’s tax returns.

We’re watching to see what happens, but we applaud the Times for taking the risk and keeping the standard of public interest alive during a time when it feels like the fat cats tend to threaten their way out of far too many important news stories. This is also a great example of how newspaper reporting permeates the entire news cycle. Because of this one story in the Times, every media outlet is following up with their own versions carrying many threads that will help inform the citizenry.

Read the Times Coverage here:

Here’s Susanne Craig’s account of finding the records in her snail mail: That Time I Found Donald Trump’s Tax Records In My Mailbox

Here’s what the tax records tell us about The Donald: Donald Trump Tax Records Show He Could Have Avoided Taxes for Nearly Two Decades

Why do we care that Donald lost $916 million and somehow managed to come out on top? Just because Trump won doesn’t mean there weren’t victims…

“Ordinary investors in the new company, meanwhile, saw the value of their shares plunge to 17 cents from $35.50, while scores of contractors went unpaid for work on Mr. Trump’s casinos and casino bondholders received pennies on the dollar.” – US News

Why do we care if someone, running for office, doesn’t think paying taxes is important? So what if he believes that being super rich means you don’t have to pay for schools or the police or the roads you drive on…? Why do we care that Trump used the tax code to his personal advantage? Because Trump campaigned on the idea that it’s poor people, people who expect a free ride by the government that aren’t paying their fair share, and that everyone needs to help out, which  makes him a hypocrite, it makes him phony and it makes the case further that he believes he’s better than the rest of us, untouchable…

From Mother Jones:

Mother Jones reported that Mitt Romney had privately derided 47 percent of Americans as shiftless individuals who could not be bothered to take responsibility for their own lives. Trump hit Fox News to advise Romney not to apologize for the remark. And he again complained that half of Americans do not pay taxes and expect hand-outs from the government:

He should never apologize. Actually bring on this discussion….It’s a discussion that maybe should be had. You do have a large percentage of people not paying taxes. You do have a large percentage of people that feel they’re entitled.

In these comments, Trump was slamming people who didn’t pay income taxes for feeling entitled and for essentially screwing those Americans who do.

More recently, Trump reiterated his criticism that 50 percent of Americans are free-riders, not contributing to society (presumably by not working and not paying taxes) and expecting to be taken care of by others. In a June 2015 interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Trump exclaimed,

The problem we have right now—we have a society that sits back and says we don’t have to do anything. Eventually, the 50 percent cannot carry—and it’s unfair to them—but cannot carry the other 50 percent.

Perhaps it was a brilliant financial move. But how odious would it be if Trump was castigating low-income, working Americans for not paying federal income taxes while enjoying a billionaire’s lifestyle and stiffing Uncle Sam. There is, of course, only one way for Trump to clear up this matter: release his tax returns.



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