Donald Trump and Fair Coverage

“I’m not running against Crooked Hillary [Clinton], I’m running against the crooked media,” Trump said at a rally in Fairfield, Conn on August 13th. “That’s what I’m running against. I’m not running against Crooked Hillary.”

From the beginning of this election cycle, Trump surrogates and the man himself have been vocalizing the notion that the media have had an undue bias against the Republican presidential nominee.

Attacks on the “crooked media” led to the infamous blacklist of media outlets such as the Washington Post and BuzzFeed.

On September 8th, Trump announced the end of his media blacklist and invited the press to return to his campaign.

With the end of Donald Trump’s media blacklist comes the question, was it necessary to begin with?

Donald Trump and his campaign are not the only skeptics; reporters from both sides of the aisle have been questioning whether Trump is correct in saying that his campaign is being unfairly covered.

“Any objective observer of the news media’s treatment of Trump can certainly conclude that reporters are taking a side in this election — and they don’t have to be wearing a button that says ‘I’m with her’ for this to be readily apparent,” said Justin Raimondo in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times.

Raimondo believes that this sort of coverage turns people away from the media and forces them to view the media overall in a negative light.

“At this point, the public – i.e. ordinary people who are non-political – look at the media in the U.S. the same way the Soviet people looked at Pravda, as unmitigated propaganda,” Raimondo wrote in an email to MediaFile.

Alex Griswold, media reporter for Mediaite agrees, saying “Media bias against conservatives has always been unfortunate and far too common, but this is the first election of my lifetime where at least some journalists aren’t even bothering to mask their partisanship.”

Documentarian and Columbia University journalism professor June Cross disagrees, saying that Trump is being covered so frequently in hopes that news sources to increase ratings. According to Cross, Trump is not being covered unfairly, he is just being covered more than anyone or anything else.

“Trump has a real knack for being interesting, and Hillary has a real knack for being dull,” Cross said in a phone interview.

Tony Pederson, professor and Belo Foundation Endowed Distinguished Chair in Journalism at Southern Methodist University, agrees, saying that in recent times newspapers have been hit hard financially.

“What everybody looks to these days at least the management is how you maintain the audience that’s sufficient to sustain the business model of reporting and I think to some extent we’re seeing that played out as well,” said Pederson.

When moving towards ratings is journalism moving away from objectivity? Will Norton of the Meek School of Journalism at Ole Miss believes that objectivity was never the standard of journalism.

“The standard is fairness,” said Norton. “Have you reported on the story so well that you know the story and then tell it well? Any reporting is not going to be objective, but if it is done well it will enable the reader to know the facts, the significance and the implications of the story.”

Pederson sees a return to partisanism as a return to the roots of American journalism.

“It’s really a return to where we started in terms of our nation, the newspaper of the colonial and early United States era were stridently partisan,” Pederson said. “They were clearly affiliated with one political party or another.”

Today’s media landscape  is changing with new tools and outlets. Social media has made it possible for anyone to be a publisher and often these publishers are writing to a base of supporters.

As for the future of journalism, Cross believes we can expect to see more biased journalism.

“I think it is the future,” Cross said. “It’s being pushed there by Twitter and Snapchat and all these things […]. Yes it does seem to be the future. Much more the measured commentary is the future.”

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