Frank Rich talks about post-election coverage and 'self-flagellation' by the media

Frank Rich talks about post-election coverage and 'self-flagellation' by the media

Frank Rich has lost patience with the hand-wringing.

"Enough already," says the longtime U.S. media and politics columnist, who's also co-executive producer of HBO's satirical political comedy, Veep. 

In an interview with CBC's The Investigators, Rich sounds the alarm about what he sees as a damaging fixation in the media over its collective failure to misjudge Donald Trump's popularity in middle America.  

"The self-flagellation has really gotten out of control," says Rich, who has been a vocal critic of the current president. He says "everyone missed the Trump juggernaut," including the Republican establishment and conservative columnists who thought the billionaire would never even be nominated.

Rich says the media's rush to overcorrect by suddenly focusing its attention on the views of those who support Trump has "become a fetish … a cottage industry, really."

"This sense that they didn't know what was going on in white, working-class America, I think, is wildly overstated."

We spoke to Rich just days after New York Magazine published a lengthy article in which he lays out his view on how the Democrats are stumbling in the post-election period.

Rich says the news media itself is generally overlooking the investigative journalism that has defined much of the coverage of the past year.

"Trump University, the Russian story started to break, so it wasn't as if the media was asleep," he says of the time ahead of the election. But the "self-flagellation" since then, he says, is "almost an excuse for the things that they really screwed up. Which is like, for instance, polling."

Rich suggests the media's reluctance to appear too focused on larger centres such as New York or Los Angeles, or too-liberal, is causing them to lose their journalistic equilibrium.

"It's not a zero-sum game. They can cover rural America, or whatever they want to cover, but I think they're actually doing a terrific job of beefing up D.C. coverage in this incredible time in the history of this country."

'It's always over-the-top'

Which brings us to Rich's other job, overseeing the biting political satire of Veep, about a say-anything-do-anything-to-win fictional former president of the United States.

Rich says satire has been complicated by the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction Trump administration, acknowledging "it's very hard to do explicit satire of Trump."

"The thesis of the show — which I totally agree with, having grown up in Washington — is essentially it's always crazy, nothing ever changes, and it's always over-the-top."

The show is poised to launch its sixth season on April 16th, some episodes written months ago, with the belief that it needs to follow its own narrative and not worry about whether it accidentally gets too close to mirroring what's really happening.

"We're hoping we capture a mood that's timeless even under Trump. In our own craziness, we didn't change a line of the show, which was halfway being shot anyway, as the election happened."

Watch The Investigators at 9:30 p.m. ET Saturday and 5:30 p.m. ET Sunday on CBC News Network 

Also this week, exploring reaction to a CBC News Investigation on diversity on Canadian university campuses, and Vice Media reporter Ben Makuch talks about his legal battle with the RCMP.