The relationship between Pres. Trump and the traditional news media is noxious and getting worse. I’ve never seen such literal hatred between a major politician and the press. As a former journalist, I think it’s highly unfortunate.
However, it’s not all Trump’s fault, as the preponderance of news coverage would make it seem. Plenty of blame exists on both sides of this bloody brawl.
I wish a truce could be called, but it won’t happen. This is only going to get worse as the 2018 election looms and then Trump begins his re-election cycle.
Unlike most conservative Republican politicians, who endure or shrug off negative press coverage, Trump battles back, giving as good – or better -- as he gets. He ridicules the news media, calling anything that is not favorable to him “fake news.” He has labeled the media the “enemy of the people,” which has set off near-hysteria, with commentators saying such comments put him in the company of history’s worst dictators. Journalists who view their jobs as a sacred calling, protected by the 1st Amendment, are horrified by Trump’s disdain and name-calling.
On the other hand, prominent media commentators have accused Trump of treason, which is punishable by death, and have shrieked that his policies and actions are as bad as 9/11, Pearl Harbor and the Holocaust. A media personality holds up his fake bloody head and many commentators claim he is mentally ill.
Day after day, hour after hour, Trump gets pummeled by liberal reporters, editors, columnists and commentators. I’m convinced that at least a dozen Washington Post reporters get up each morning and the first thing they think is, “What nasty story can I write about Trump today?”
For a guy whose first instinct is to punch back as hard as he can, Trump has plenty to react to.
Studies by the Pew Research Center, Media Research Center, and the liberal Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, show coverage of Trump is overwhelmingly negative. That’s not surprising, given that other surveys show that the vast majority of reporters, editors and commentators hold liberal political views.
There’s no question that Trump eagerly feeds the outrage. Every day (sometimes two or three times a day), he delivers his media opponents more things to hate. There’s no question that he is pompous, arrogant and outrageous.
By attacking the media as they attack him, Trump is playing a tough and dangerous game. Most politicians don’t think you can win a fight with the people who buy ink by the barrel and paper by the roll. But Trump doesn’t believe that. With his social media channels that deliver his messages directly to his supporters, without filtering by the news media, he thinks he can overwhelm the negative coverage he receives.
Every day, Trump dominates the news – with mostly negative coverage. But the news media have a big problem. Trump has low approval ratings, but news media approval ratings are even lower -- far below Trump’s. Trump is feeding the popular narrative that the news media are not to be trusted.
I believe that the current toxic atmosphere is bad both for the profession of journalism and for the institution of the presidency. I wish a treaty could be declared.
But it’s not going to happen. Trump is not going to change. He’s going to be Trump, blasting the news media at every opportunity.
And the news media are going to hit him even harder, for two reasons. First, he drives them insane with his disdain of them, his chutzpah, his arrogance, and his ego. Second, Trump is an enormous threat to the liberal world view. He is actually governing in a (mostly) conservative way. He is cutting taxes and regulation, appointing conservative judges, and breaking with tradition in foreign affairs. So not only do the media hate his personality. They hate his governance. He is taking the country in a direction they greatly fear. They think their progressive world is coming to an end.
Trump fights like a cornered rat. The news media treat him with contempt, disdain, and a fair amount of hysteria.
Welcome to the new order of politics and media.