Is Reuters right: Covering Trump is like covering Third World dictators

The Reuters news agency says covering Washington DC is now on a par with reporting from dictatorships. Is this the right thing for journalists? Doc Martin reviews the advice being given to reporters facing Donald Trump’s shock doctrine tactics.

IT DIDN’T take long. About ten days. But now it is very clear that the White House is at war with large sections of the American – and, indeed, the global – news media.

Trump incessantly tweets about the “failing” New York Times, this week suggesting it should be sold and its print edition shut down. The White House is also refusing to send Trump “surrogates” to CNN talk shows as a way of bullying the organisation. This tactic seems to be working, CNN has dropped its initial decision not to broadcast Sean Spicer’s press briefings live.

This is a war the news media knew was coming. It’s not like Trump kept his hatred of the New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN secret. He’s been tweeting his bile and outright lies about the media for months now.

Trump’s cultivated hostility to certain sections of the news media – he is very benevolent towards the pro-Trump media – is causing conniptions among executives and editors. It is prompting deep soul-searching and even causing some outlets to reconsider their whole Washington DC news coverage.

Globally-respected journalism academic, Jay Rosen, has told IA that the White House approach to controlling press briefings is

“… as bad as I thought it would be, with ‘the media’ getting blamed for what the White House or Trump screwed up.”


Rosen is associate professor of journalism at New York University and has been critical of Trump’s media strategy for some time.

He also recently argued that any journalistic rationale for interviewing White House surrogates like Kellyanne Conway has evaporated because Trump’s mercurial personality means that any statements they make are likely to be contradicted at some point in the near future.

Said Rosen in a podcast for the Recode website:

The logic is, this is a representative of the presidentThis is somebody who can speak for the Trump Administration. But if we find that what Kellyanne Conway says is routinely or easily contradicted by Donald Trump, then that rationale disappears.

Another reason to interview Kellyanne Conway is our viewers want to understand how the Trump world thinks, but if the end result of an interview is more confusion about what the Trump world thinks, then that rationale evaporates.

We’ve known about the Trump problem for quite a while

Journalists started writing “How to cover Trump” stories as early as March last year and there’s been a veritable flood of them since.


Can the media learn to act differently?

The Reuters news agency is one organisation trying to rapidly adjust to the changed dynamics in the U.S. capital.

In a message to staff earlier this week, Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler wrote about covering President Trump the Reuters way:

The first 12 days of the Trump presidency (yes, that’s all it’s been!) have been memorable for all – and especially challenging for us in the news business. It’s not every day that a U.S. president calls journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth” or that his chief strategist dubs the media “the opposition party.” It’s hardly surprising that the air is thick with questions and theories about how to cover the new Administration.

Adler’s advice to Reuters’ staff is direct and simple: covering the U.S. Government may well become as difficult as covering authoritarian regimes in other nations. He specifically mentions several dictatorships:

Turkey, the Philippines, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Thailand, China, Zimbabwe, and Russia, nations in which we sometimes encounter some combination of censorship, legal prosecution, visa denials, and even physical threats to our journalists.

That is has come to this is a damning indictment of the Trump regime and a clear signal that life is going to get a whole lot tougher for reporters covering the White House.


Read the rest of this story at Independent Australia

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