Will the Press Grab Back?

Donald Trump should be used to making history at this point. The President-elect is the first reality TV star president, first president with no previous political or military experience, and the first to cancel a major newspaper interview via Twitter – only to recommit to the meeting hours later.

With the dawn of a new presidency comes a new outlook on the press’s role in the White House, and, while the Obama administration’s hasn’t been the most transparent to the press, a sea change is surely coming.

In the past, President-elect Trump has been know to single out news organizations he believes the media is not covering him fairly. Just this week, he took to Twitter to single out CNN’s Senior Washington Correspondent, Jeff Zeleny:

Zeleny took the opportunity to respond directly:

In an even more prominent and long-standing situation, Trump also displayed similar behavior in a series of tweets about The New York Times in which he calls out the paper’s “poor and highly inaccurate coverage of the ‘Trump phenomena.’”

Janet Steele, Director of The George Washington University Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication, believes Trump has no plans to cooperate with the media.

“Trump has made clear his dislike of the mainstream media, and has, in fact, used Twitter to circumvent it,” Steele said in an interview with MediaFile. “It is not clear to me that he understands the basics of press freedom, and that it is important for the press to serve as an independent monitor of power.”

These actions and reactions are not new for Trump. Throughout his entire campaign, he has expressed his dislike for “liberal,” “crooked” mainstream media.

He repeatedly called out NBC’s Katy Tur, referring to her as “Little Katy,” and a “third-rate reporter;” tweeted that the press made up false events to hurt his numbers, and called a room full of reporters liars and deceitful.

“The dangerous thing about his name-calling (“the failing New York Times,” etc.) is that this exactly is what he did with “Crooked Hillary,” “Little Marco,” etc,” said Steele. “He is trying to diminish legitimate media coverage by belittling it, and so far these tactics seem to work.”

Clearly, Trump himself doesn’t understand his relationship with the press, as he managed to both compliment and insult The New York Times in one quote.  

“I just appreciate the meeting and I have great respect for The New York Times,” the President-elect said during the previously canceled meeting with the publication. “Tremendous respect. It’s very special. Always has been very special. I think I’ve been treated very rough.”

Steele is concerned that the odd commentary is evidence of a larger problem.

“We really are in uncharted territory when a President of the United States refuses to engage with the press in a normal way,” said Steele.

Trump’s relationship with the press will surely have influence on how coverage of his presidency looks. But, the question still remains: how will the press respond to an adversarial administration?

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