How will political reporting change under the Trump Administration?

"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

 Thomas Jefferson, January 16, 1787

The White House’s relationship with the media changes with each new administration. Many Communications@Syracuse students are working journalists and the recent questions about the role of a free press and criticism by President Trump, who called the media “the enemy of the people,” have been a topic of discussion.

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Early into Trump’s administration, Communications@Syracuse asked political journalists to share their thoughts to add to the discussions we are having with our students. The responses below come from journalists around the country, including editors and correspondents from C-SPAN, the Tampa Bay Times and Mother Jones. Here is some of what we have heard:


Steve Scully

Senior Executive Producer and Political Editor
C-SPAN Networks

What are your thoughts on how the new administration interacts with the media?

As with any new administration, the Trump White House is trying to set its marker on what the POTUS and press office thinks is—or is not—acceptable. This is not new. Every new president has issues with the press, it goes with the political terrain. What is different, however, is just how public President Trump has been with his war on the “dishonest, lying and crooked” media. Not since Richard Nixon have we had a president so vocal and so critical about the Fourth Estate. Having said that, I give credit to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer for his open-door policy and his willingness to meet behind closed doors to deal with some of these issues. Sean understands the D.C. press corps and, while critical of some reporting, he has started out with a willingness to listen. That’s positive.

How, if at all, do you think political journalism will change during Trump’s time in office?

Like the media in general, political journalism is becoming sharper and often more partisan. We’ve moved from straight reporting the news to opinion journalism, which in many ways has led to a divided nation. This polarization will become sharper in contrast and even more evident, I fear, during the next four years of the Trump Administration.


Peter Grier

Washington Editor
The Christian Science Monitor

What are your thoughts on how the new administration interacts with the media?

The new administration treats the media as a prop, not a conduit. They are a part of the Trump show as opposed to a means for communication with the American people. The relationship has been moving in this direction since the Reagan administration so in some ways I’m surprised it didn’t happen earlier.

How, if at all, do you think political journalism will change during Trump’s time in office?

The White House is a difficult and unpleasant beat. I’d guess political journalism increasingly moves out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to the places where information is—the departments and Congress. White House reporters used to be many organizations’ chief political reporters, at the peak of their careers, stars on the Sunday shows and in the bars on the campaign trail. No more.


Sabrina Eaton

Washington Correspondent
Cleveland.com/ The Plain Dealer

What are your thoughts on how the new administration interacts with the media?

It’s more disorganized than any newly installed White House operation I’ve experienced. It is hard to get questions answered. Not sure whether this stems from disorganization or a lack of desire to deal with the media. They’ve been in office less than a month, so it’s early. I hope this improves over time.

How, if at all, do you think political journalism will change during Trump’s time in office?

Trump‘s actions call for plentiful journalistic scrutiny. He will receive it and that will improve political journalism.


Shawn McCoy

Publisher
InsideSources

What are your thoughts on how the new administration interacts with the media?

It is concerning to see that the administration has such a hostile view of the media, but it’s important to consider how things got to this point so we can find a better path forward. For decades, Republicans have felt the media has played “gotcha” journalism and held conservatives to a different standard. This was escalated during this past campaign as the media spent every day dismissing Trump’s candidacy and ridiculing his policies, which many Americans support. Because of this, when the White House criticizes the media, Trump’s supporters also feel the media is in opposition to them personally.

If the Fourth Estate is to maintain its role as a watchdog and arbiter of government, then it needs to show a greater respect for the opinions of those, particularly in middle America, who have a different worldview than the coastal media.

How, if at all, do you think political journalism will change during Trump’s time in office?

The retrospection and introspection that should have come in the aftermath of the election has not happened. The media continues its daily war against Trump and his policies. The initial mea culpa from the media that perhaps we were too focused on elite coastal opinion and not on the average voter in Wisconsin or Michigan has not materialized into action. This bodes poorly for the next four to eight years.


David Corn

Washington Bureau Chief
Mother Jones

What are your thoughts on how the new administration interacts with the media?

Trump and his crew have declared war on the truth and war on the media. They peddle “alternative facts”—which are falsehoods or lies—as reality, and they assail journalists for reporting critically on Trump and his actions. This is how an authoritarian regime behaves.

How, if at all, do you think political journalism will change during Trump’s time in office?

Yes. In response to the Trump assault on the media—and his excessive deployment of false information—many in the mainstream media, in order to remain relevant and useful, will have to become more assertive in challenging the inaccurate and misleading assertions presented by the president and his team.


Tim Maier

Executive Editor and CEO
Talk Media News

What are your thoughts on how the new administration interacts with the media?

The media has not had a good relationship with the current administration. Some of it stems from the biased coverage during the campaign and the failure of the media to understand what was going on in the country—particularly in the Midwest where Obama voters cast ballots for Trump. The Trump team has not forgotten and now calls the media the opposition party.

How, if at all, do you think political journalism will change during Trump’s time in office?

The landscape of journalism is changing because reporters are becoming less objective in their reports. For journalists to win back the public, they may need to be more transparent in their political affiliations just as they are when they report finance news and disclose financial interests.


Amy Hollyfield

Deputy Managing Editor for Politics and Features
Tampa Bay Times

What are your thoughts on how the new administration interacts with the media?

I think everyone is adjusting to the change in government so it’s maybe too early to answer this question. But there’s reason for caution given some of the administration's changes to press protocols and access.

How, if at all, do you think political journalism will change during Trump’s time in office?

Certainly the speed of news, the outlets for news, and the breadth of news are changing with this administration and that’s something we’ll all adjust to as we go. I’m certain the industry will innovate as this tenure progresses, just as the administration likely will adapt to an aggressive media. The change has been coming just with the advancement of the 24/7 news cycle and the Twitter-sphere for information. That happened in the 2016 campaign, but we’ll just have to watch it going forward.