President Donald Trump last week criticized the press once again for their negative coverage and suggested that he may consider taking away press credentials.
He tweeted on May 9th, “The Fake News is working overtime. Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?”
The Fake News is working overtime. Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2018
Last Fall, the Media Research Center published a report that showed 91 percent of Network News the summer prior was negative. Even Harvard University’s Shorestein Center for Media, Politics, and Public Policy found in a study of news coverage of Trump’s 100 days that, “Trump has received unsparing coverage for most weeks of his presidency, without a single major topic where Trump’s coverage, on balance, was more positive than negative, setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.”
So President Trump’s complaint about the overwhelmingly negative press coverage does have merit. I think it is difficult for the press to claim fair and unbiased reporting while “setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage.”
Some will say, President Trump’s actions have brought this upon himself, and that is partly true, but the media can’t be so hyper-focused on his Twitter account and the Russia investigation that they ignore or downplay some of the administration’s accomplishments.
The media has lost the public trust, and it seems, to me, that they still don’t understand why.
In 2016, Gallup reported that the public’s trust in the media dropped to an all-time low. Only 32 percent of Americans said they had a great deal or fair amount of trust that the press would “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly.”
Why is that?
Because of the overwhelmingly positive coverage President Barack Obama received after he was inaugurated. A Pew Study found that President Obama received eight times more favorable news coverage in his first two months than President Trump did. There was a definitive disparity between the way President Obama’s campaign was covered in 2008 and the way President Trump’s was covered in 2016. There was an unbelievable lack of vetting for Obama by the press.
The fact such disparity and double standards exist is the reason the public’s trust in the press has eroded.
A 2017 Gallup/Knight Foundation poll found more Americans have a negative (43 percent) than a positive (33 percent) view of the news media, while 23 percent are neutral. A key finding of that poll is that 66 percent of Americans say most news media do not do a good job of separating fact from opinion. In 1984, 42 percent held this view.
President Trump should not and can not be the arbiter of what is fake news because the standard cannot and should not be all news that casts his administration in a negative light.
Also, removing press credentials from media outlets that are negative is an unfortunate precedent and hurts the free press. While the press can and should report the news whether they have White House access or not, not having access makes their job that much harder.
When the Obama Administration overstepped in the U.S. Department of Justice’s leak probe they were rightly called out. Should President Trump make this move (and I’m not convinced he will), he should be called out as well.
A free press is vital to our Republic, and President Trump should not interfere with it, but a free press should police itself to ensure that it is fair. It should report the truth, the whole truth – the good and the bad – not just the stories about the Trump Administration they want to cover. The press should do more reporting and less editorializing. They should move away from activist journalism.
If they do that it would go a long way to rebuilding the trust they have lost, better inform the public, and be the check on the federal government that we need them to be.