Saturday, June 4, 2016

How the press should (not) be covering Trump

Paul Waldman (Washington Post Plum Line) detects a change in how the press covers Trump.

There has been an element of Gee-Whizzery in the mainstream media coverage of Trump. (We've never seen anything like this candidate! He didn't say that, did he?) And there's been a bit of abdication of the press' responsibility to do some fact checking. (Let the Never Trump movement do the heavy lift.) Waldman sees a reversal of both trends.

...I suspect that many journalists are deciding that the way to cover Trump is just to do it as honestly and assiduously as possible, which would itself be something almost revolutionary. If the tone of his coverage up until now has been “Wow, is this election crazy or what!” it could become much more serious — as it completely appropriate given that we’re choosing someone to hold the most powerful position on earth.

The change may be seen in ways both large and small. Yesterday, in a story about some of Trump’s remarks, CNN ran a chyron reading “Trump: I never said Japan should have nukes (he did)”. That kind of on-the-fly fact-checking is unusual, but Trump necessitates it because he tells such a spectacularly large number of lies. He also enables it because those lies are often repeated and obvious. So we’re beginning to see those corrections appear right in the body of stories: the reporter relays what Trump said, and notes immediately that it’s false.

Trump himself probably finds such treatment grossly unfair, since to him “unfair” coverage is anything that doesn’t portray him in the most glowing terms. But it is perhaps ironic that after all this time of wondering how to cover this most unusual candidate, Trump has shown the press that the best way to do it is to cover him like every candidate should be covered. That means not just planting a camera at his rallies and marveling at how nuts it all is, but doing to work to fully vet his background, correcting his lies as swiftly and surely as they can, exploring what a Trump presidency would actually mean, and generally doing their jobs without letting him intimidate them.

If they can keep doing that, they’ll bring honor to their profession — and I doubt Trump’s candidacy could survive it.

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