Ruben Navarrette: Hey, Van Jones, there is no crying in journalism

Summary: Van Jones' over-the-top rant was not good for journalism.

Ruben Navarrette column
Ruben Navarrette commentary
Tribune graphic

SAN DIEGO โ€” Thanks for nothing, Van Jones.

A lot of people I know thought there was nothing improper about the CNN contributor becoming an emotional puddle on live TV when the network declared Joe Biden the 46th president of the United States.

Those people are wrong.

"It's easier to be a parent this morning. It's easier to be a dad. It's easier to tell your kids that character matters. The truth matters. Being a good person matters," Jones said Saturday morning when Pennsylvania put Biden, its native son, into the winner's column.

"This is vindication for a lot of people who have suffered under this administration," Jones said.


The former Obama administration official even invoked the memory of George Floyd, who was killed in May by Minneapolis Police officers.

"When George Floyd was murdered, he said 'I can't breathe.' Over these past four years, too many of us have felt like they couldn't breathe," Jones said through his tears.

He concluded: "I'm sorry for the people who lost. For them, it's not a good day. But for a whole lot of people, it's a good day."

Maybe so. But Jones' over-the-top rant was not good for journalism.

I realize that Jones is not a journalist, but he plays one on TV. And so, when the Democratic operative and Yale-educated lawyer acts unprofessionally โ€” as he did in celebrating Biden's win โ€” he hurts a larger cause that some of us care a lot about: restoring faith and trust in the American media.

As if that weren't already a tall order. When the folks who work for media companies show their biases, it only further disorients a public that is horribly confused about who we are and what we do. Already, too many people can't tell reporters from anchors from commentators, and routinely call newspapers to complain about "biased" editorials.

In fact, the only thing that the American people are clear about at this point seems to be that many of them have gone from distrusting the media to detesting it. And, while Republicans are more vocal than Democrats about their dislike of the media, it's not a blue-red thing. It a win-loss thing.

It's easier to be at peace with the media when you win elections than when you lose them. Hillary Clinton and her supporters have never stopped blaming the media for losing the White House in 2016, insisting reporters spent too much time on the story of her private email server. Now Donald Trump and his supporters are blaming the media for losing the White House in 2020, claiming that the media was always determined to defeat Trump.


In August, a survey released by Gallup and the Knight Foundation found that Americans' trust in the news media continues to decline as more and more people conclude that journalists have given up on objectivity.

The poll, which surveyed 20,000 people, found that 49% think the media is "very biased," and roughly three-quarters believe the owners of media companies are influencing coverage. Fifty-four percent of people believe that reporters intentionally misrepresent facts, and 28% believe reporters make the facts up entirely, according to the survey.

Yet, the public hasn't given up on the media entirely โ€” at least not yet. As many as 84% of Americans say the news media is either "critical" or "very important" for a functioning democracy.

Every day, in print and online, I read plenty of commentary disguised as straight news. A lot of it is written up by reporters who seem desperate to tell the world how they feel but also, at the same time, want to preserve a perception of objectivity that they think brings respect and opens doors.

As for Jones, I've believed for a long time that we in the media give up too much of the soul of our business in the name of bringing in the voices of non-journalists, and that this is one reason that so few trust us anymore.

On television, on election night โ€” and sometimes, for as many days and nights as it takes to get the results sorted out โ€” real journalists sit six feet apart from partisan hacks, spin doctors, and political strategists whose day job is to help elect Democrats or Republicans.

What a strange cast of characters. No wonder the consumers of news are confused. The goal should be clearing the air, not polluting it further.

Van Jones, and his bosses at CNN, did the latter. And so they did no favors to those of us who actually care about this profession.


Ruben Navarrette can be reached at

What To Read Next
Get Local