By Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director
Yesterday I wrote about how all of us in journalism must address the growing task of restoring public trust to our business. The attacks on our credibility by then-candidate Donald Trump, as ugly and unwarranted as they were, simply represent the latest and most public criticism we’ve taken. But they were hardly the first.
Nonetheless, it’s worthwhile to reflect on what the next four (or eight) years may bring insofar as the relationship between the soon-to-be-President and the media.
Trump starts from a position of intolerance with us. Setting aside all the vitriol-laden charges he constantly hurled at journalists during the campaign, it seems clear that his dislike for the media is deep and wide. And we would be foolish to believe that will change substantially after Inauguration Day.
RTDNA and many other journalism organizations have been sharply critical of President Obama’s lack of transparency with the government’s business. His signature earlier this year on the bi-partisan FOIA improvements bill represented a positive step, to be sure. But Mr. Obama gave us little else which could be construed as fulfilling his 2008 promise to lead “the most transparent administration in history.”
When it comes to Mr. Trump, how will he relate to the 24/7 media coverage which accompanies the Presidency? It is one thing to criticize reporters and their companies (often by name) from the stage at a rally where supporters shout obscenities and insults toward the media. It is quite another to stand in the White House Briefing Room and demonstrate a similar level of contempt.
News coverage of President Trump’s every move will be laid bare once he assumes the office — far more than anything he experienced during the campaign. Will he still show his hair-trigger temper every time a reporter writes or says something he doesn’t like? Or will he evolve to have a more tolerant understanding that both journalists and leaders have their jobs to do, and he won’t always agree with or be pleased with the results.
Threats to “open up the libel laws,” banning news organizations he doesn’t like or Tweeting about the “dishonest” and “lying” media are bad enough during a heated political campaign. They are simply intolerable if they were to emanate from the leader of the free world.