On Why Journalists Are Struggling

For journalists, covering the president is never easy, but Donald Trump has made it nearly impossible during his short 20 days in office.  The reason?  He is still acting as if he were on the campaign trail, rather than acting like a leader.  He still rants against everything and everyone that is critical of him, makes outlandish claims that have no basis in fact, and his ‘presidency’ has become nothing more than an extension of his campaign, only worse.

First there are the contradictions.

  • Prior to his inauguration, Trump slammed the intelligence community repeatedly in response to what he said was unfair coverage caused by leaked information from intelligence officials. He even went so far as to tweet: “Outgoing CIA Chief, John Brennan, blasts Pres-Elect Trump on Russia threat. Does not fully understand. Oh really, couldn’t do much worse – just look at Syria (red line), Crimea, Ukraine and the build-up of Russian nukes. Not good! Was this the leaker of Fake News?” But then, on January 21st, the day after his inauguration, he stood before the Central Intelligence Agency’s Memorial Wall to give what amounted to yet another campaign speech, patting himself on the back, touting the falsehood about how many were in attendance at the inaugural, and said “I want to say that there is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump. There’s nobody.” He then said he ‘assumed’ most everyone in attendance had voted for him.
  • In December, he said, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes. Let it be an arms race,” Then in January he said, “I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially.”
  • In 2013, Trump claimed to have a ‘relationship’ with Russian President Putin, even wondering if Putin might become his ‘new best friend’. Then in January, “I don’t know that I’m gonna get along with Vladimir Putin. I hope I do. But there’s a good chance I won’t. And if I don’t, do you honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me? Does anybody in this room really believe that? Give me a break.”

Those were just a few examples of the many contradictions and denials that journalists have to try to discern what is fact vs. fiction.  Then there are the outright lies.

  • “The murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years.” Actual murder rate is 4.9 per 100,000, as compared to 1995 when it was 8.2 per 100,000
  • Says “109 people out of hundreds of thousands of travelers” were affected by the immigration executive order. At that time, it was between 60,000 – 100,000pants-1
  • Terrorism and terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe have “gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported.” According to Benjamin H. Friedman, a research fellow in security studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, “terrorism in the West is overreported compared to terrorism elsewhere. The vast majority occurs in the non-western world, generally amid civil wars, and those attacks receive far less coverage than ones closer to home.”

And I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Then there are the lies told by his minions, such as the one about the infamous “Bowling Green massacre”, but I have neither time, space, nor inclination to go into all that in this post.

twitterThen there is the problem of Trump’s preferred format for communication, Twitter, and his endless, nonsensical tweets.  While journalists are kept hopping trying to keep up with his tweets, what is happening that they are not seeing?  I’ve mentioned before that news about the investigation into the Russian hacking that interfered with our election has been virtually non-existent.  Trump’s failure to fully distance himself from his businesses?  What else is taking place that we know nothing about, as we are all focused on his latest tweet calling Nordstrom’s “very unfair”, or criticizing Saturday Night Live for their mockery of himself and Sean Spicer?

And of course, there is his constant and continual bashing of the press, using words like “dishonest,” “lying,” and “unfair”, and saying at various times that one media outlet or another, usually the New York Times, is on its way out.  This not only makes it difficult to report the news, but sways some of the public to believe that legitimate news must be “fake” because Trump said so.

In an interview with Fox News last month, Kellyanne Conway suggested that reporters who had been critical of Trump should lose their jobs. “Who is cleaning house? Which one is going to be the first network to get rid of these people, the people who think things were just not true? Not one network person has been let go. Not one silly political analyst and pundit who talked smack all day long about Donald Trump has been let go. I’m too polite to mention their names, but they know who they are, and they are all wondering who will be the first to go. The election was three months ago. None of them have been let go.”  Excuse me, Kellyanne, but it is not the job of the media to pander to Mr. Trump … it is the job of the media to report the facts.

Finally, Sean Spicer is as inept a White House Press Secretary as I have ever seen.  Questions are circumvented, and he embellishes or ignores facts altogether, so the daily press briefings likely have little or no value for reporters trying to ascertain facts.

While all of this explains why the coverage of Trump has been somewhat chaotic, it is imperative that journalists find a way to provide the important facts, rather than the propaganda, and keep the public informed of those things they need to know.  Two articles worth reading in Politico by senior writer Jack Shafer contain some valuable advice to journalists trying to find their footing in this post-truth world, a world of ‘alternative facts’. The New Rules For Covering Trump  and Unsolicited Advice for the White House Press Corps .

I fully support the right to freedom of the press, for without it, our democracy cannot survive. I fully support our journalists … they have a job that is tougher than ever before.  However, they need to regroup, re-structure, and re-think their traditional methods. Now more than ever, in the swirl of falsehoods and half-truths presented by the administration, it is imperative that every fact be checked for accuracy. In-depth investigative reporting is crucial to keeping the public informed about what our elected officials are actually doing. If they do not do so, I fear the freedom of the press may become diminished by the constant criticism from the administration. The press must be above reproach. I find the reporting of U.S. happenings is more accurate in some of the European media outlets than in our own.  Entirely too much attention is being given to the red herrings that are tossed out by Trump and his minions … a dangerous situation.

22 thoughts on “On Why Journalists Are Struggling

  1. Hey Jill,

    I really appreciated this post. I have just started to keep a blog which discusses the relationships with public relations, journalism, and changes in our society. I have dedicated a handful of blog posts to the disastrous situations that journalism has had to deal with since Conway took on the role of “PR strategist” for Trump. Both industries are really struggling from all of the outlandish exaggerations and outright lies. It’s disappointing to see journalism being harmed by all of this. Credibility of journalists are questioned and it’s sad because we need them now more than ever. This issue makes me wonder, though, if now is the most opportunistic time for journalism to do some re-structuring and re-branding like you mentioned. Investigative departments have been cut at newspapers recently, which is the watch dog mentality we need more than ever. It would be interesting to look back 10 years from now and see how journalism re-structured itself. Maybe this restructuring seems horrible right now but is exactly the inspiration and motivation journalism needs to make a come back. I sure hope so. I really enjoyed this read, you made great points and summed up dynamic concepts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’m glad you found it useful. Yes, the media could certainly do with some housecleaning and re-structuring but … as long as they are profit-driven, they will provide what the masses want, and these days it seems what the masses want is somewhat different from that which intellectuals want. That is a problem to which I do not know the solution. These are strange times, and I would love to be able to see how this period is covered in the history books 100 years from now! Thanks for reading and commenting … I plan to check out your blog also.

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  2. Journalistic standards require impartiality and dedication to the truth: Be ever vigilant : not be racing to be the first above all : be first to get it right : check sources twice : clearly differentiate opinion from FACT!
    Trump lies. Fact.
    Here is motive of this whole thing.
    Discount the media as fake.
    Continue to disseminate voter fraud lie. Further galvanizing his supporters. Continue to marginalize legit media as bias, fake, hypocrites. Continue to spout “little” lies focusing our gaze in that direction, away from actions detrimental to the good of us all. Desensitize us to the truth. Threaten media if critical of administration. Erode confidence of people in the media. Make the coverage, critical statements, personal, pursuing agendas instead of information, further calling into question validity of criticism. Till the fog surrounds our vision preventing clarity.
    Are “alternative facts” used to determine decisions (i.e. John Q Conspiracy Theory presents “evidence” the moon landing was staged on a movie set, calls it a study, posts it to the internet and twitter: therefore we NEED to stop funding NASA).
    Your information should be sourced from multiple outlets with track record of reliable impartial reporting : NOT primarily from Twitter/FB/Internet Click Bait- There is a reason it is referred to as SOCIAL MEDIA – Not Media!!! The primary rationale sited by WH referred to the number of retweets, shares and likes critical or unfavorable information received.
    Delegitimization of detracting opinions undermining public confidence of reliability, insinuating only source of interpretation of information is the source of the information. Abuse of the faith, in the power of the faith in office, to say this faithfully ” mine is the only interpretation that is faithfully informing you information! “Would I lie to you?” I’m POTUS!! Expected to believe because: If you believe in The United States you should believe in the POTUS, The POTUS should be believed, I’m POTUS so believe me, when I tell you I’m the only one you can believe. Despite unbelievably believing unbelievable information to be believable, believably, believing to believe. Believe you me, it’s unbelievable not to believe me. Lost you yet? Don’t know who to believe? There in lies the rub. While you are trying to figure it out???

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very good analysis … you hit the nail right on the head! Which is why it is more important than ever for the mainstream media to be ever-vigilant in their fact-checking and stop worrying about sensationalism to garner that almighty advertising dollar! Half of us are smart enough to know when something sounds fishy and go in search of the truth, the real facts. But sadly, the other half find it easier to just believe what they are told to believe, and therein lies the danger. Thanks for your great insight!

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  3. Great post. Trump doesn’t read his own sources. He tweeted a quote from an article today that he read out of context and used it to slam the court decision on his ban. I read the article and it went on to say that even though the court didn’t use certain pieces of information, their unanimous decision was applauded and Trump was slammed for abusing his power.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Jill,

    I love this wording:

    “I’ve mentioned before that news about the investigation into the Russian hacking that interfered with our election has been virtually non-existent. Trump’s failure to fully distance himself from his businesses? What else is taking place that we know nothing about, as we are all focused on his latest tweet calling Nordstrom’s “very unfair”, or criticizing Saturday Night Live for their mockery of himself and Sean Spicer?”

    Our media needs to keep their eye on the ball, like DT’s, ties to Russia; his conflict of interest issues; how his dependence on fake news is influencing his policy decisions; and his very real strategy to discredit all the checks built into our US constitution with a campaign of disinformation.

    Great job as always! Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Gronda! Yes, my fear is that the media … and as a result, the public … get so distracted by the meaningless banter that we completely lose sight of the important news … until it is too late to reverse it. We all certainly have our work cut out for us as long as this idiot is in office! Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gronda, Jill, one thing DT is good at is distraction. Plus, PR companies have been doing this for years. So, the voter fraud story he is perpetuating, in my view, is to take the media and public’s eye away from the Russian manipulation story. PR people live news cycle to news cycle, so if the news goes south, nudge their boss to distract them with a inane tweet. The US public does not have a very long attention span. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • You hit the nail on the head when you say the U.S. public has a short attention span. That is why I am so concerned about stories that are not making the front pages, such as the Russian hacking … need to keep them front and center so people don’t simply forget.

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  5. Jill, there are two phrases he uses quite often – “believe me” and “it is a disaster.” Invariably, if he says this statements, whataver he says before or after is no truthful. NAFTA and Obamacare are imperfect, but are not disasters. He usually follows with believe me after he says something we know not to br true. Based on his history of relentless lying, believing him is the last thing one should do. Keith.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agreed. Everything seems to be catastrophic with him, and “believe me” is such an oxymoron! But it makes it difficult for both journalists and the public to figure out, since we cannot believe a single thing he says, what is real. It is truly a new world we live in, though I would not call it a Brave one.

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  6. Contradictions and lies, I’ve never seen a Presidency like it. The man is not doing his job. He’s either like a mad king of centuries past issuing his constant proclamations or like a mentally ill patient throwing out paranoid statements. If a king he’s surrounded himself with some very dangerous courtiers who will do the population no good.
    I hate the Republicans who’ve passed some of his unfit nominations irrespective of the damage they may do. DeVoss and Sessions are not what the Country needs. I’m really worried for America.
    xxx Cwtch Mawr Cariad xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • No, he certainly is not doing his job and is, in my book at least, an embarrassment to us all! A dangerous embarrassment. I am worried for America, yes, but also for the world, as his actions have the potential for major disruption around the globe, I think. Sigh. Cwtch Mawr! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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