Critical Thinking: How Can Journalists Create More Unity Against Trump’s Anti-Press Tactics?

CriticalThinking-Web-August-2018

 

 

 

A former editor described Donald Trump as a ‘magician’ who has ‘led (journalists) by their noses around the circus ring by his cheap acts.’ How can journalists create more unity against Trump’s tactics?

 

Tatiana Diaz, 30, sophomore, Grand Rapids (Mich.) Community College

Diaz is pursuing a career in journalism and is editor-in-chief of the student-run newspaper, The Collegiate.

Since the beginning of his presidency, Donald Trump has attacked journalists for their seemingly biased reporting and labeled any news unfavorable to him as fake news, causing the public to cast doubt on otherwise credible news organizations like CNN, the New York Times, etc. This obscure war on journalism is merely one example of Trump’s tactics used to distract journalists and the public from the real story or from what is really going on in Washington with his administration.

The president is using Twitter as his personal newspaper to communicate directly with the public. This is yet another tactic that keeps journalists running around the circus ring, diverted from the real issues—like his connection to Russia and Russia’s possible meddling into the 2016 presidential election. And so far, his tactics have worked. Time and time again we are entertained by the shiny dangling keys in front of us noting his remarks on certain foreign countries as “shitholes” and blaming Democrats for our nation’s immigration troubles as newsworthy without focusing on the bigger picture.

Trump’s war on journalism created an “us versus them” rabbit hole which we will never escape unless we—journalists—put an end to it. The answer is simple: journalists can expose Trump’s tactics by simply doing their jobs and not fighting back. This isn’t a war. Journalists have an obligation to the public, to report the truth and protect democracy with every story published no matter who the president is.

 

Margaret Sullivan, media columnist, Washington Post

Sullivan joined the Washington Post in 2016.  Previously, she served as the New York Times’ longest-serving, and first female, public editor. She began her career at the Buffalo (N.Y.) News.

 The best way to sum up President Trump’s attitude toward the news media might be “love/hate.” He loves the attention, and there’s no doubt that lavish amount of unquestioning coverage he got during the 2016 campaign helped him get elected. But he has also called journalists “scum,” and he has referred to the press as the worst problem in the United States—and of course, there is the constant name-calling directed at the “fake news media” to describe coverage that he doesn’t like. That, unfortunately, is the “hate” part of the equation.

But we journalists shouldn’t follow suit. We shouldn’t give oodles of unquestioning coverage to Trump, but neither should we be involved in a war against the president. My boss at the Washington Post, Marty Baron, has expressed it with beautiful simplicity: “We’re not at war. We’re at work.” The work we do is on behalf of citizens who need accurate information. That requires toughness when we’re under attack. And it requires a constant commitment to fairness.

It’s not at all our job to take down the president—and the journalists I know are not interested in that. We’re interested in digging out factual stories and telling them honestly and courageously.

But this is important: That doesn’t mean doing things the same old way. Confronted with a president who very often misrepresents reality—sometimes indulging in obvious lies—we have to make sure we are not magnifying those falsehoods. False statements, even by the president, should not be amplified in headlines, leads of stories or the top of broadcasts. Yes, what the president says is—by definition—newsworthy. Even if his statements come in the form of tweet storms. But we should be careful to stay with our primary purpose: to find and present the truth.

The linguist and cognitive scientist George Lakoff has one idea of how to do this: It’s the “truth sandwich.” Present the overall, context-rich reality first; then include the president’s statements; then, if necessary, fact-check those statements—all within the same article or broadcast piece. The “truth sandwich” concept can help us think about how to avoid being pawns. That’s important because American citizens certainly don’t need journalistic pawns right now. They need a fair-minded, truth-telling press with a strong spine and a sense of mission.

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Published: August 15, 2018

6 thoughts on “Critical Thinking: How Can Journalists Create More Unity Against Trump’s Anti-Press Tactics?

  • August 15, 2018 at 5:15 am
    Permalink

    It seems, once again, you’ve got it wrong. You’re trying to make out that the President started this feud when from the very beginning the few remaining readers have been treated to misleading headlines, slanted, biased “reporting” and insinuations. Your headlines are full of guesses: “Could Cause”, “Might Create”, “Some think that”, all designed to cast doubt and seemingly predict some disaster based on your personal wishes.
    A headline on the front page of the Waterloo Courier/Washington Post following the Presidential Election read like this; Iowa Electors Remain Loyal To Trump! Not a word about how Iowa Electors did their job??!! And, this is just one glaring example. I love newspapers and have since delivering the Boone News-Republican, but when you continue to replace real reporting skills with partisan wishes, the press will continue to decline.
    I’ve never complained when they raise my subscription fees, but lately, I feel like I’m paying too much to have the crossword puzzle delivered to my home each day. Straight, accurate, FAIR reporting will turn the tide.

    Reply
  • August 15, 2018 at 7:55 am
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    I agree, quit showing your political views, QUIT having political views, clear your minds, report on facts, human stories, local sports, local schools, what great things are going on in your coverage area.

    Reply
  • August 15, 2018 at 8:25 am
    Permalink

    To those above, please read this again:

    It’s not at all our job to take down the president—and the journalists I know are not interested in that. We’re interested in digging out factual stories and telling them honestly and courageously.
    But this is important: That doesn’t mean doing things the same old way. Confronted with a president who very often misrepresents reality—sometimes indulging in obvious lies—we have to make sure we are not magnifying those falsehoods. False statements, even by the president, should not be amplified in headlines, leads of stories or the top of broadcasts. Yes, what the president says is—by definition—newsworthy. Even if his statements come in the form of tweet storms. But we should be careful to stay with our primary purpose: to find and present the truth.

    Reply
  • August 15, 2018 at 10:48 am
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    Even this attempt at an “objective” approach shows the writer’s bias. Far, far too many of us have either consciously abandoned any pretense of objectivity or we do not even grasp the concept any longer. Once upon a time the public trusted and depended on us because they knew — absolutely knew — we would have absolutely no bias and would tell both sides of the story. That simply can no longer be said in more cases than not. And CNN and the NYT prove it, day in and day out. If we die, they and others of their ilk — not Donald Trump — will be guilty of our murder.

    And then the Boston Globe initiates its “Let’s all be crybabies and run this editorial complaining that we’re being mistreated” editorial. Maybe we deserve to die. Maybe CNN and the Times are doing us and the world a service by getting rid of us.

    Reply
  • August 15, 2018 at 4:42 pm
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    There was a time when a journalist was the most trusted man in America. And that man was Walter Cronkite. He wasn’t alone. There were other news commentators like Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, who were almost equally trusted. Not to mention numerous local news commentators who people turned to find out what was happening. The network news was serious business at the time. Not the flashy programming you see today with lots of graphics, teasers before the commercial breaks, and attractive, well-coiffed news anchors with gleaming smiles, engaging in mindless banter between news stories. That was before the networks wanted to win the audience share for news segments. News was more or less a public service and not just more entertainment.

    I don’t know if we can ever return to those days, but we need to elevate the standards once more. News is not entertainment. It’s not supposed to be about sensationalism. It’s not about character assassination. It’s not anything goes as long as you get the story first in all of it’s gory, nasty details. Journalists knew about Kennedy and his extramarital affairs, but it was kept out of the press. Should it have been? Would it have done more good than harm? It’s hard to say.

    But when you report everything then important stories tend to get lost in all of the noise. When we’re fed a constant stream of news over our mobile devices, television, and email, we feel overwhelmed and we just get anesthetized to it all. In the days of Cronkite we had half hour segments of news at dinner time and late in the evening. With the constant news cycle we have now, the news agencies seem to be scrambling for stories to fill the void. Many of those stories are not newsworthy and leave people with the impression that journalists are overly concerned with the mundane and the banal. We need to make sure that reporting is relevant as well as newsworthy.

    Trump is notoriously thin-skinned and he has been at war with the media for years. But a lot of celebrities and elected officials do not like the media. It’s been like that forever. The White House Correspondents Association was formed in response to Wilson’s threat to end Presidential Press Conferences because he didn’t like some of the things that were said in the press. So the journalists banded together, adopted a set of rules for professional conduct, and convinced the President to back off on his threat. The media has a duty to report on what our government is doing, but they can and should do so in a respectful and factual manner that cannot be interpreted as either supportive or hostile.

    Journalists need to hold people accountable. Not just elected officials, but also other journalists. That means they can’t be friends with people they cover and to some extent not even their own colleagues. Not that they have to consider everyone a potential enemy, but friendship can be tricky when it comes to doing your duty as a journalist. You have to be willing to hold anyone accountable for not fulfilling their duty .

    With the changes to news organizations, some journalists have become celebrities in their own right. As such, they travel in the same social circles as the people they cover. And that can be a problem. Journalism needs to be pure. It can’t be affected by friendships, politics, or even personal beliefs to some extent. Not everyone is cut out to be a journalist. It’s a tough job. You have to be fair and aggressively pursue the truth. You have to be a good judge of character. You have to be passionate and compassionate. And you always have to think about the greater good sometimes at the expense of a great story.

    Reply
  • August 16, 2018 at 4:47 am
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    Here is how to solve the problems facing journalism today:

    1. Report facts.
    2. Use proper attribution
    3. Do not report information provided by “unnamed sources”.
    4. If you are a reporter, and your job is to report news, keep your opinion out of it.

    Its not hard.

    Reply

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