prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Picking a Fight

Posted by prof e on February 19, 2017

President Trump crossed a line and ruffled a lot of feathers the other day with a tweet that called “the FAKE NEWS media” … the “enemy of the American people.” Admittedly, President Trump and journalists are both suffering a crisis of credibility. According to a recent poll of registered voters, it is a statistical tie when it comes to who they trust to tell the truth (45% to 42%, +/- 3%).

But as we consider who’s winning this war of attrition, let’s be clear about two thing; 1) the press plays an important and essential role in our democratic process as a check and balance on power (see earlier blog posts here and here). And 2) Presidents throughout history have had adversarial relationships with the press. Nearly every US President has a quote (or two or three) that captures their frustration with the folks whose job is to hold them accountable.

This should come as no surprise. Any administration trying to advance its agenda will be annoyed when journalists challenge their assumptions, ask difficult questions, and hold their feet to the fire. In response Presidents have deployed various tactics to take their message directly to the people…bypassing the traditional media whenever possible. FDR had his fireside chats, Trump has his Twitter account, and every president has used the bully pulpit, e.g., the State of the Union address, to speak directly to the American public. (Regarding press conferences there’s even discussion about which news outlets are called on and whether the President is taking or not taking questions from certain media organizations based on their ideological leaning.) 

On a related note, leaks of classified information about the President and his staff  by members of the intelligence community (aka the “deep state”) have raised questions about anonymous sources and journalistic ethics. The NSA, CIA, FBI and the DHS have staff who appear to be willing to share inside information with members of the press when they uncover either illegal or unethical behavior that could put the nation at risk. The challenge for the press is to ensure that their inside sources are not selectively leaking information to further other, less noble, goals.

Back to the point of this post. Early on in his campaign President Trump decided to pick fights with the Washington establishment, with the intelligence community, and with the press. All three can do this administration great harm if and when they decide to punch back. But it may be the press who wield the strongest blow. In the words of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, “Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.”




9 Responses to “Picking a Fight”

  1. jeremy moak said

    Although, I respect the work of the author writing this posting, I am reminded about what I learned in chapter 13 of “Media Essentials” that says “considering the First Amendment’s role our democracy today, who, journalist, citizens, both, should be the civic watchdog”. Why can’t President Trump make this statement without a mountain of evidence? Isn’t his First Amendment right, enough for him to say what he pleases? This story is unwinding and now revealing how the CIA watches citizens via their Samsung television, and it appears that the FISA court didn’t allow the first warrant to “bug” Trump Tower, but they allowed the second one that didn’t have Trump’s name specifically. Therefore, who is the watchdog to allow free speech?

  2. Leonardo Ronchetti said

    Since when they are born, newspapers have always tryed to give real information to the people. In recent era sometimes could be difficult to distinguish between Fake News and Satiric Journalism. I think that President Trump, knowing the role who is having, should be able to distingush them. Recent studies has shown that even Television Shows are able to give good information even with a satirical and comedy tone (The Daily Show, Comedy Central Daily Show). So my question is: how can be possibile to accuse renowned information channels such as; CNN, NYTIME, CBS ecc., to be fake news? I can understand that in the Modern Era, where autoproduction of information is in excess, sometimes could be difficult distinguishing what is fake news. But it is wrong to predjudge. And, especially, it’s wrong to write a post like President Trump did, without any kind of common sense.

  3. Michele Bedard said

    Yes, President Trump does have the protection of the 1st amendment to express his opinions (freedom of expression) without prohibition from the government. Also, yes for a sitting President to make such claims on a social media platform without some supporting evidence is highly unethical on his part. I believe the takeaway here is that yes, the right to free speech in America, however it applies, applies to everyone equally. You can say whatever you want, but you can’t say whatever you want and then deny the rights of others to challenge you on it or expose you. This is what our President is trying to mentally manipulate the American public into believing is his right. #NotTheEnemy

  4. Richelle Abeyta said

    I find it pretty ironic that Trump often posts and accuses networks of “fake news” but oftentimes makes claims of his own that aren’t completely true. I think Trump has misplaced aggression towards the media when he should be focusing on his more important duties. The president of all people should know how powerful the press can be, and he is only creating more bad publicity for himself and his administration in making heinous, and obviously false, claims through Twitter specifically. Although I don’t think Trump realizes that in starting this war with the press he is only digging his own grave. At this point a good portion of American citizens know better than to believe every Trump claim, and this will eventually backfire as his word no longer holds much meaning.

  5. Kyenne Ranson said

    I feel that it is important to preserve everyone’s right of freedom of speech. However, what Trump doesn’t seem to understand is that this goes both ways. The public and the press have the right to retaliate to what he says and to make commentary on him as president. His retaliation isn’t wrong in and of itself. But he is going about it in a way that makes him seem less like the president of the United States and more like a bitter middle schooler that got bullied in an online video game. Not only is he expressing dissatisfaction with these news outlets, instead of offering evidence or reason he tries to turn the general public against them. This is not an effective way to express an opinion.

  6. Aaron Nicholson said

    It’s pretty obvious most main stream media outlets and President Trump were not the best of friends. They often argued back and forth. In the article it says most if not all Presidential candidates have had trouble with media, but I feel that it was at a all time high this past election. Both trying to make the other look bad. I personally agree with trump tho. I feel the main stream media has been brain washing people into what they want you to know. Such as taking things out of context. Obviously everyone has been taken out of context, but they were targeting trump tho. Context is everything and I don’t feel like trump was treated right. Being politically correct is stupid as well. Who cares about being politically correct people just need to tell the truth straight up without caring about feelings (ecspecially government). So overall I believe Fake News is out there and they like to manipulate people in to believing something that has been taken out of context. #MAGA

  7. Emily Zinanti said

    As we’ve talked about in class and read in our text book journalism is a very important part of creating a democratic society, and when the leader of the country, calls out a large chunk of our largest news organizations and claims they are all “FAKE NEWS” the results can be damaging to the process of creating a democratic society. In my opinion Trump is just as bad as the journalist from your previous post, Juan Thompson who would falsify quotes and emails. Trump has made false claims in many press conferences and speeches, and for him to unjustly criticize these media outlets, tarnishing their name to many people who need to hear the very real news they are reporting about to be able to form well rounded opinions over current political events, is a threat to the truly democratic society we need.

  8. Breanna Noble said

    Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are in the first amendment of the Unite States Constitution because it holds so much importance. President Trump may and will say whatever he chooses and many people in this country will listen and agree with what he says. The other side of that guarantees that the press can write or say what they wish, Both the press and the president have ethical constructs that they are suppose to follow. As citizens’ of this country it is not only are right to be involved within our government but also essential for it to work. The democratic process and the press go hand in hand. People will choose who and what the believe in even if it is “Fake News” or commentary within comedy or if it is written by computer algorithm’s. The algorithms are monitoring all written words by all people and making conclusions based on such, Algorithm’s written and monitored by humans, all with bias. Keep reading and writing and all of us will share and make up the societies beliefs and behaviors.

  9. Ione Gallagher said

    The news has taken full advantage of the extreme divide between political parties in this last election. Because of this divide and the media’s tendency to lean towards one side or the other, article titles and headlines become extremely left or right winged to draw attention to the appropriate audience. This has obviously taken a toll on the media’s credibility as well as the credibility of those in the spotlight. I think a direct address is truly the only way for a president in this day and age to make a statement that won’t be distorted when presented to the public. As our book states, journalists are responsible for the “never-ending job of providing the information the public needs to make informed and intelligent decisions” but when the media strives to catches the eye of the extremists on either side, it’s hard to have faith in the content.

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