It’s been almost two months since Donald Trump has taken office, and saying that his administration has made some changes is an understatement. Trump hasn’t just made changes. It seems that he’s even changed what change is.
In this respect, it shouldn’t be considered remotely surprising what the state of the relations between Trump and the press are like (spoiler alert: they’re not that great).
Before he even took office, Donald Trump was pure media gold. A multi-billionaire running for president, who is bursting out ideas of building an iconic wall, and making daily controversial statements? Of course that would make for delectable headlines and articles, and it’s hard to blame news organizations for jumping on the bandwagon. Many pundits and “talking heads” alike agree that extensive media coverage played an incredibly influential role in bringing candidate Trump’s election campaign center-stage, regardless of whether the coverage was positive or negative.
Undoubtedly, President Trump has an obligation to communicate with the media and, in essence, with the American people. Every weekday, news organizations and the White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, have to meet together in the W.H. briefing room and discuss the successes and failures of the Trump Administration. But as a conservative-leaning RHS student (who chose to stay anonymous) stated in response to being asked how Trump’s relationship with the media is, the reply: “there is no relationship.”
This naturally creates difficulties, since the White House has a large responsibility at their hands. And when incidents like Sean Spicer’s blatant inflation of the crows at President Trump’s inauguration happen, this can sow the seeds for an uncertain and strained relationship between media organizations and the White House. While giving his first solo press conference, Mr. Trump clashed and argued with reporters in an effort to bear down on ‘fake news’, and stated that “the level of dishonesty is out of control”. It’s important to also consider that Spicer selectively restricted certain news organizations from entering a press conference. Reporters from CNN and the New York Times were told they weren’t on the list as they arrived, with little justification whatsoever. A liberal-leaning RHS student (who also chose to stay anonymous), in response to being for an opinion on this, replied with: “It’s not good because we have the freedom of the press which is in the First Amendment. They can’t just call it a press conference and block certain people from going.”
While it’s certainly clear that the relations between Trump and the media are definitely not the friendliest, the question then becomes: “can it be improved?” Upon being asked this, the conservative-leaning RHS student said that “if he’s not so quick to throw punches back, then I think from the results he’ll be able to bring about, the relationship can improve. I’m not sure if it can be a love relationship, but it will improve.” On the other hand, the liberal-leaning student asserted that “first impressions are important, and that didn’t go so well for him [Trump]. So now, it’s hard to backtrack and change some people’s opinions.” These responses may seem as if they differ, but they share a similar core thread: things can be improved. Trump will just have to play ball to do so.
All of this might just be a rough start to the Trump Administration’ correspondence with the media; although, Mr. Trump’s administration is probably not “running like a fine-tuned machine”, as the President claimed earlier. Regardless, whether an administration is filled with political outsiders or with experienced bureaucrats, the White House Press Briefing is designed to be a civil event where one party asks questions, and the other answers. Sticking with precedent, if the White House accuses the media of dishonest reporting, and restrictively blocks some organizations from the press briefings, the administration must offer evidence and justification for its actions.
Following the first month of the Trump presidency, the question becomes: what’s next? Perhaps America has shown, with the election of Donald Trump, that they want a government that has more force, spontaneity, and “outsideness”; more ‘Great Americanness’?. Fundamentally, however, the American experiment was founded upon the principles of a free press and limited government, and furthermore, in the wise words of Abraham Lincoln, a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” that “shall not perish from the Earth.”
Graphics: Jessica Chang