Trump could help restore faith in journalism

President Donald Trump has proudly declared that he is in “a running war with the media,” and there is growing evidence to show that he is putting his words into action.

From the campaign trail to the Oval Office President  Trump has delighted in attacking, criticising and denigrating journalists who do their jobs by turning up to cover him and his administration.

Never mind that he seems to obsessively digest the news and opinions produced by that the media he professes to hate, for President Trump journalists are part of the “us vs them”, “real people vs the elite” narrative that he has so successfully constructed.

This reached a peak, of course, at Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s bizarre first appearance in the White House briefing room. Spicer raged against the assorted journalists before exiting without taking any questions.

Collapse in trust and alternative facts

There has been a demonstrable decrease in trust for journalists and journalism in recent years. In January 2016, an Ipso-Mori poll found that only 25 per cent of respondents “generally trust [journalists] to tell the truth, or not”.  The Press Gazette reported that that number was 24 per cent when the same question was asked later in the year. A YouGov poll released at a similar time found only 18 per cent trusted journalists. Trust in journalists had halved over the last decade.

However, in a world of post truth politics and “alternative facts” journalists may actually benefit.  When senior public figures, including the President of the United States and his closest confidants no less, say provable falsehoods, and journalists are the ones that demonstrate the falshehood, the public will see the value in the journalism once again.

Back to basics

There has been lots of talk of how the media reacts to the huge disruptions happening in global politics at the moment. Professor Jay Rosen of NYU says news organisations should flip the relationship and “send the interns” to the White House briefing room.

The truth is though that in someways journalism does not need to change at all.Now, more than ever, facts and investigation are required. The kind of thing journalists in newsrooms around the world do day in, day out.

Trump and others in his mould will continue to blast the media, and journalists, like everyone else in every other profession, will not get things right the whole time. But when more of the public see that they really are providing actual facts, not the alternative, support for, respect for, and the desire to consume journalism will surely increase.


My first book "Not Buying It", looking at post-truth in media and politics, is being published by Unbound

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