Trump bans critical media from briefing

The row between Donald Trump and critical media reached a new highpoint on Friday when the US administration banned reporters from CNN, the New York Times and other media from a press briefing. Prior to that Trump had described journalists as enemies of the people and called the principle of source protection into question. How should journalists react?

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Kristeligt Dagblad (DK) /

Media and government are natural enemies

The president and the media being at loggerheads with each other is just a return to normality as far as Kristeligt Dagbladet is concerned:

“A spokesperson for the president made it clear on ABC that the president can't deal in a friendly way with the journalists he fights with on a daily basis. … And perhaps something positive can come of Trump's media harassment: the realisation that journalists and politicians have very different interests and that it can therefore compromise the credibility of the democratic process when the two groups move too close to each other, as has happened in the last few decades. In some cases so close that journalists were able to switch back and forth between acting as advisor and acting as a member of the press. The best thing the media can do for themselves and democracy is to pursue classic, critical and well-informed journalism.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

More distance a good thing

It's not the worst thing in the world for US President Trump to shake up relations between the White House and the press, Neue Zürcher Zeitung points out:

“The confrontation between Trump and the media is marked by vanity and no doubt has a certain entertainment value for cynics. One has to doubt whether these ritualised press conferences are all that important for the outside supervision of the government's activities. In fact it's not at all a bad thing that Trump is now putting the cat among the pigeons. It's even a good thing for the media to distance themselves from power and stop waiting for the president to indirectly give them recognition by inviting them to press briefings. Journalists don't need the respect of the government, they need the respect of the public. They must win that with critical and fair reporting, and they should stand up for their right to go about their work unhindered.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Journalists must stress positive developments

Trump owes his success to the spread of bad news, The Irish Times comments, and advises journalists to adopt a new strategy:

“Trump’s inaugural speech, with its evocation of 'American carnage' was breathtakingly dystopian. He understands that he has come to power by feeding - and feeding on - fear and despair. ... The need to keep the FBF at fever pitch dictates a media strategy that bewilders traditional journalists. Forget taking credit for positive things; Trump and [his chief strategist] Bannon want to bury good news. From their perspective, the best news is anything that supports a narrative of danger and decline. ... So long as they can do this, they are winning. And they’ll keep winning until traditional journalism gets its head around an unprecedented task. Faced with government by gloom, journalists must steel themselves to accentuate the positive.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Democracy dies in darkness

Donald Trump's declaration of war on critical media should be used to reflect on the basic values of journalism, the Irish Times recommends:

“The Washington Post has recently added the slogan 'Democracy dies in darkness' to its digital masthead. It has since emerged that this is a favoured phrase of Watergate icon and reporter Bob Woodward. It is appropriate that it is an old mission statement because well-honed principles of journalism, that have served the public interest for a great many decades, still apply. An imperfect press is not the opposition and those in the direct firing line in the US should resist that categorisation. ... Well-sourced, verifiable journalism about matters of serious public interest remains the best bulwark to serve those who favour rule by democracy.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

No compromises in protection of sources

In demanding that journalists be obliged to disclose their sources Donald Trump is only revealing his lack of understanding of their work, the Tages-Anzeiger criticises:

“With this move Trump is attacking a principle that is more sacred to journalism than anything else. Without a relation of trust between informers and reporters, research is impossible. ... That means journalists must weigh up the interests of the source and those of the public. They can do this by verifying the information they get from their informants, and by choosing not to publish a story if the source seems dubious. Regarding the protection of the source itself, however, compromises can't be made. President Trump isn't interested in good journalism. His only criterion is whether it shows him in a good light or not.”

Pravda (SK) /

Just a diversionary tactic

The US president is just trying to divert attention from himself and the most recent revelations about his election campaign, Pravda suspects:

“Trump made no secret of his motives for excluding the New York Times, CNN and the BBC. At the Republican Party's Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday he once again described the media as the enemy of the American people against whom his administration is waging a heroic battle. That said, from his point of view the enemies are only those who question his overblown notions about his own greatness and competence. ... But this isn't just about stirring up emotions. If you want to distract the media you have to throw it a bone. And what bone could be better suited for that purpose than one that involves the media itself? It's no coincidence that the new round in the fight against the media began just as the New York Times started to write about Russia's role in the election campaign and the FBI's investigations.”

Expressen (SE) /

The autocrats of this world can rejoice

Trump's constant bullying of the media is not just weakening democracy but encouraging dictators across the globe, Expressen fears:

“In the Washington Post reporter Aaron Blake pointed out that the term 'fake news' had become a way of countering unwelcome news. Everything is vaguely dismissed as 'fake news'. … The more Trump tramples on these democratic ideals, the more revelations and resignations should follow. But autocratic leaders all over the world can rejoice. If the leading democratic nation is led by an unprincipled fool they have more leeway for their undemocratic actions. This is very worrying. At the same time those lucky enough to live in a democracy must cultivate their democratic reflexes and not just allow themselves to get used to all this.”