Between his declaration of the press as the “opposition party” and his adviser’s use of “alternative facts,” President Donald Trump’s contempt for mainstream media outlets has drawn the relationship between journalists and the nation’s commander-in-chief into murky territory.
While Trump boasts about his war with the media, his casual relationship with facts and outright hostility toward many traditional media outlets and journalists has inspired industry leaders to reflect on the nature of political journalism during the Trump administration.
Newsrooms including The New York Times and Reuters sent letters to their employees about their coverage of the new administration and the political currents that have shaken the post-Cold War world order.
Journalists have proposed both symbolic and radical change for journalism in the Trump era.
Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, cited the president as the reason his publication decided not to host a party for this year’s annual White House Correspondents Dinner. Media ethicists such as New York University’s Jay Rosen suggested fighting back against the administration’s falsehoods by halting interviews with Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway and sending interns to White House press briefings.
Regardless of whether they’re frightened, unfazed, or motivated by the new administration’s declaration of war on the press, many journalists are examining, and doubling down, on their coverage of the new administration.
Business Insider spoke with a number of media leaders about whether their coverage changed after the election. Here’s what they said:
Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron
“We’re covering this president as we’ve covered presidents in the past. We haven’t changed how we do our jobs,” Baron said.
Vox Editor-in-Chief Ezra Klein
“We’re heavily staffing up to cover policy under the Trump White House. We think the nuts-and-bolts of policy details often get neglected for covering Trump’s tweets, fights, and obsessions. So we’re focusing there, and hiring to make sure we can do it,” Klein said.
The site is hiring several junior and senior policy reporters, including one to cover the effect of economic policy on Americans and one to cover distressed communities.
Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief John Avlon
“Every major event brings out new opportunities and obligations, and obviously we need to recalibrate based on the challenge of the time,” Avlon said by phone.
“Part of our calculation was, regardless of who was elected president, world news and national-security coverage would be more on the front-burner than it necessarily was in a presidential-election year. Because the first year of a presidency is when global challengers, whether they’re other nations or terrorist organisations, test the new president.”
Avlon said The Daily Beast made several staff hires to address that challenge, including new military and White House reporter Kim Dozier and conservative columnist Matt Lewis.
“It’s really important to me that The Daily Beast stands out from the pack of partisan news. And that’s part of insuring that we’ve got credibility on both sides of the aisles to have the credibility to criticise,” Avlon said. “Because if it’s all just sort of easily dismissed as representing one predictable political viewpoint, it loses some of its punch.”
The Atlantic Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg
After Trump’s election, The Atlantic poached a number of journalists, including BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins and Rosie Grey, Politico’s Julia Ioffe, and former New Republic editor Frank Foer, to cover the new administration.
“Like everyone else, we’ve allocated more resources than usual to cover this novel experiment in governance,” Goldberg said.
The Atlantic editor added that he was unfazed by Trump’s rhetorical barbs.
“Like all self-respecting journalists on the planet, rhetorical attacks only tend to motivate us,” Goldberg said.
New Yorker Editor David Remnick
Though he acknowledged in a phone interview that Trump’s ascendance caused him grave concern, Remnick told his newsroom after Hillary Clinton’s concession speech that the magazine “had a job to do” following the election.
“We are going to be tough, we are going to go deep, we are going to be fearless, but we are going to be fair,” Remnick said he told his magazine’s staff.
BuzzFeed News Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith
“One difference is obviously Trump’s unusually close and obsessive relationship with the media, particularly TV, which is why we brought Steven Perlberg in on a Trump and media beat on our politics team,” Smith said.
“More broadly, though, we plan to continue the tough, fair coverage that we began on the campaign.”
CBS News Washington Bureau Chief Chief Chris Isham
Isham said CBS was making a “very modest supplementation of our staff” in response to the sheer volume of news, which he said was typical for a new administration, and which CBS was planning to do no matter who was elected.
Though some observers have expressed concern about Trump’s war on the free press, Isham dismissed the Trump administration’s barbs, maintaining that it is not journalists’ job to “get all wrapped-up in how they feel about us.”
“Our job is to report on the administration and what they’re doing and not to get caught up in a tit-for-tat with the White House on how they feel about us,” he said. “Our job is to report on what they’re doing. So my advice to our folks is to keep the eye on the ball, keep focused, continue to report accurately, fairly, objectively the way you’ve been doing.”
Daily Caller Editor-in-Chief Vince Coglianese
“We’re covering the media a lot more now. The reflexive hysteria among the mainstream press has been deeply revealing and totally intriguing to document. We’ll keep following it,” Coglianese said.
The editor doubted that media outlets were evaluating their own coverage after the 2016 election.
“Have you actually found any outlets doing genuine soul searching? I’d be impressed, if so. Everyone’s acting like the election merely confirmed all of their existing biases,” he said.
Mic Chief Strategy Officer Cory Haik
“We are adding dedicated staff, both in New York and DC, which we never had before,” Haik said.
“Because of the election, there was a need to clarify what Mic’s role would be for our audience, and that is to help them navigate the changes in policy, and the impact on underrepresented communities of colour, immigrants, women, and those interested in social justice and issues there within. This was always our focus, but a line of reporting in service to those groups, as well as generally reporting on the daily news of the administration, is more important than ever.”
Mic launched a newsletter, “Navigating Trump’s America,” and said it will aggressively cover protests across the US.
“We are very much positioned to cover this groundswell in an important way,” Haik said.
Talking Points Memo Editor-in-Chief Josh Marshall
“TPM has always been far less wedded to ‘false balance’ than other publications, particularly large corporate news outlets. So we have less to adjust to. We’ve always been ready to call a lie a lie, a falsehood a falsehood. Trump just makes it a more useful skill,” Marshall said.
“The big change — one that is in the process of coming online as we onboard a series of new hires — is that we are deepening our investment in investigative reporting because we can already see that this administration is uniquely opaque and likely to be uniquely corrupt.”
Washington Free Beacon Editor-in-Chief Matthew Continetti
“We’re doing what we’ve always done: reporting accurate stories that otherwise wouldn’t see the light of day, and having fun in the process,” Continetti said.
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