Trump’s Relationship With the Press

Trump’s Relationship With the Press

 


Trump’s Relationship With the Press

During his Wednesday press conference, Donald Trump displayed what is likely to be a pattern in his relationship with the press: he shut down CNN reporter Jim Acosta, refusing to take his question and calling CNN “fake news.”

The move was an obvious retaliation for CNN’s breaking the story about a former British intelligence officer’s report about compromising material that Russia may possess and wish to use to blackmail our soon-to-be President. Trump’s treatment of Acosta was also a clear message to other Washington reporters: no matter how big your news organization, if you report something that displeases the President, you will lose access to him. The exchange prompted this Facebook post from former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather:

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Here is the article from Columbia Journalism Review to which Dan Rather is referring.

In order to fully understand the implications of Presidential exchanges like what took place in that press conference, one needs to look at today’s media landscape and Trump’s history of interacting with it.

Many news outlets today face high levels of public distrust – some rightfully earned, some not. Trump was brilliant throughout his campaign at playing that to his advantage, painting the media with a broad brush as dishonest, and having that message resonate with his supporters. The obvious implication of his repeated slams is that if the journalists’ version of events is a lie, his version must be true.

Donald Trump is also notoriously litigious, having been involved in thousands of lawsuits over his lifetime. On the campaign trail, he suggested rewriting the law to make it easier for a President to sue journalists.

Lastly, many of our more reputable news outlets are struggling today. The major newspapers and the three major broadcast TV networks of 40 years ago are now competing with 24-hour cable news, which is in turn competing with thousands of bloggers, tweeters and YouTubers: everyone is trying to have the edge, to be the first to break a story, to get the biggest share of an increasingly fractured audience. At the same time, in their struggle to remain financially solvent, many major news outlets have cut journalistic staff to a minimum, and the concern of further layoffs is always looming.

Enter Donald Trump: a fresh-from-the-tabloids-and reality-TV figure who was a household name before his Presidential run, who says and does entertaining and controversial (and therefore “newsworthy”) things every day. During his campaign, he proved to be a guaranteed ratings grabber, and news outlets consequently provided him hours of free coverage that none of his competition enjoyed (it might be argued that this excessive free coverage from day one of his campaign contributed to his electoral victory). The lucrative nature of covering Trump was best summarized in February, 2016 by CBS Chairman Les Monves when he said “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS” (Full Article – Politico).

Now imagine that you are a reporter assigned to cover the White House. Your job requires that you have access to the President and his Administration, and your journalistic responsibility to the public requires that you ask challenging questions to get at important truths that the President may wish to conceal.

Mr. Trump is forcing a powerful and disturbing dynamic into this equation which has a high potential of distorting both of the afore-mentioned responsibilities: you now feel an unspoken pressure from your boss not to report in a way that might alienate your news organization from the President or that could risk bringing on a time-and-resource-draining lawsuit from him.

For those reporters willing to set aside their integrity, there are likely to be ample rewards from the Trump Administration: key interviews with high-ranking figures, the opportunity to be the first to get a “scoop” spoon-fed to them by Trump. For reporters wanting to operate in the long-standing journalistic tradition of “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable,” there may be significant repercussions from this Administration.

That is a prospect that should concern every American, because complete and accurate information is essential to hold those in power accountable. What you can do is to support quality journalism financially when you see it, so that news outlets see some reward for holding to their ethics.

– rob rünt


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday, January 15, 2017

 


 The major Trump news this week was:

  • There will be protests in cities nationwide on Friday and Saturday – to find one near you, click here
  • The public release of a dossier compiled by a former British intelligence officer about incriminating material that Russia has allegedly collected on Mr. Trump
  • FBI Director James Comey reveals a possible double standard in his pre-election handling of incriminating evidence against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
  • Trump’s first press conference in over five months, announcing plans to eliminate his conflicts of interest
  • The confirmation hearings for Trump’s Cabinet picks, many of whom are controversial
  • Washington DC prepares for protests

Articles and Editorials


Russia’s “Kompromat” on Trump

On Tuesday, CNN reported that the CIA’s briefing to Donald Trump and President Obama on Russian hacking included a two-page summary of a dossier compiled by a former British intelligence officer about incriminating financial and personal material that Russia had gathered on Donald Trump over the past five years– material which, if it does exist, Russia could presumably use to blackmail Donald Trump as President (Full Article – CNN). Online news source Buzzfeed later published what they asserted to be the entire contents of the dossier (Full Article and Alleged Dossier), which they admitted that they could not verify as factual.

The former British intelligence officer was initially hired by one of Trump’s Republican primary opponents, and was later paid to continue his work by an anonymous Democrat (Full Article – BBC). The former British spy has since gone into hiding, which MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow speculated Friday was out of fear of experiencing the same kind of high-profile London assassination as other individuals who have angered the Kremlin like Georgi Markov and Alexander Litvinenko.


Comey’s Double Standard?

Shortly before the election, FBI Director James Comey took the unprecedented step of notifying Congress shortly before the election that he had reopened an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. Although he informed Congress immediately before the election that he had again closed the investigation, many Democrats consider his earlier announcement to be a factor in Trump winning the election.

On Friday, January 13, members of Congress were given a classified briefing by Comey and other intelligence officials regarding Russia’s influence on the Presidential election. Although the members of Congress could not elaborate afterward due to the classified nature of what they had been told, many Democrats left the meeting enraged, stating that Comey had lost credibility (Full Article – Huffington Post).


Trump’s Press Conference

On Wednesday, January 11, Donald Trump held his first press conference since July, 2016 (Full Transcript and Video – New York Times). After weeks of vehement denial, Trump admitted during the conference that Russia probably did interfere with the US election which has resulted in his impending Presidency. However, when questioned about the dossier, he angrily denied any truth it, pointing out that the Kremlin had just offered reassurance that they do not have such information (Full Article – Washington Post). It should be noted that such documents and videotapes would be of far more use to Russia after Mr. Trump has been officially sworn into office on Friday, January 20.

At the press conference, Mr. Trump also announced his plans for ensuring that he will put the interests of the American people above those of his businesses. His plan consists largely of turning his businesses over to his sons while he is President, along with an assurance that he and his sons will not discuss the businesses for the duration of his Presidency. Many ethicists believe that this plan does not address conflict of interest issues (Full Article – Tha Atlantic). A true resolution to his conflicts of interests would involve Trump selling his businesses and putting the cash in a blind trust, to be invested in a way that he has no knowledge of during his Presidency.


Confirmation of Trump’s Cabinet Picks

With vetting of most Cabinet members still unfinished, the Senate packed numerous Cabinet confirmation hearings into a very short time period – unusual particularly given how controversial many of Trump’s Cabinet selections are (Schedule and Links to Coverage – Politico). Also unprecedented was the decision by three African American Congressmen to present testimony against their colleague, Senator Jeff Sessions, who has a questionable record on civil rights, but whom Trump has chosen as Attorney General (Full Article – Politico).

Many of Trump’s selections expressed differences of opinion with him on significant issues – building the wall, the Muslim registry, etc. (Full Article – NPR). While this may be reassuring to some, it should also be noted that Trump’s Cabinet picks could simply have made these statements to ensure that they could get through the hearings, fully aware that they can always “change their opinion based on new information” later.


DC Prepares for Conflict

What do you get when put Donald Trump’s most passionate supporters and most passionate protesters together in the same city – in adjacent hotel rooms, eating at the same restaurants, overhearing each other’s conversations, and finally turning out in force in the streets to express themselves? We’re about to find out. Tens of thousands of supporters and protesters are expected to arrive in Washington DC for Trump’s Friday Inauguration Ceremony (Full Article – Politico), with another 1,200 busloads of protesters expected to come to the city for a Women’s March on Washington scheduled for Saturday. (Many cities around the country will also be having local protests on Friday and Women’s Marches on Saturday).


Cartoons, Images & Videos


Cartoon originally published by Norwegian news outlet VG, and falsely rumored to have been banned from Twitter and Facebook:

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Video of Donald Trump playing the accordion posted by Inga Love Belfast:

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Events & Actions


Resources & Organizations