Less than a week into Donald Trump’s new presidency it seems that one of his primary battles will be with the media, potentially distracting audiences away from bigger issues such as the Middle East, the future of NATO or the global economy.
It’s not the detail of who attended the inauguration that matters, more who’s telling the truth. The media in all honesty has had a negative relationship with the Trump camp since he first stood as a candidate. The intensity of their distain for him only increased with the various statements and actions that happened during the campaign as well as his tendency to be inconsistent with either policies or facts as highlighted in the inauguration figures.
When relationships get petty, it’s the service to the public and audiences that suffers the most. It could even be argued that part of the reason that President Trump was so successful was the fact that the liberal media did not take him (or his supporters) seriously, only choosing to scandalise some of his comments, or even paint them in a disingenuous light. In doing so they ignored what turned out to be a ‘silent’ majority of opinion.
So, where next? In my view, the media and politicians must co-exist in a symbiotic relationship where both need and use each other. Politicians who ignore the media do so at their peril, while equally media outlets that are starved of access will also struggle to compete with their competitors.
It’s worth looking back at when the Blair government ‘went to war’ with the BBC over the war in Iraq, culminating with Andrew Gilligan’s misleading report that the Government had ‘sexed up’ intelligence. It was poor reporting and they were held to account, however the animosity of highlighting their poor reporting was not well received and led to pettiness and squabbling for years to come.
Let’s also consider how the ‘media’ has changed significantly since 2003, with the growth of social media and ‘unregulated’ on-line channels and sources of information. Trump can now communicate directly to more than 21.5m people every time he tweets. When his message is retweeted, or reported on, the numbers can grow exponentially and dwarf even some of the most powerful outlets. This should not be underestimated by media owners.
The mainstream media is also under pressure to sensationalise stories in order to keep up with the less accountable on-line outlets. In doing so however they need to be cautious not to lose their credibility as recently highlighted when Time Magazine deliberately and incorrectly reported that the bust of Martin Luther King had been removed from the White House when Trump moved in. Fake reports like this need to be held accountable if the media is to retain its credibility.
The freedom of the press is paramount in a free society, however with this comes a very high level of responsibility. Whatever you think of Trump, to maintain credibility, openness and ultimately the support of the public it’s important to remain objective in the analysing and reporting of the facts. This is the only way the faith and belief in the media will be maintained and Donald will be Trumped.