Media to face struggle, opportunity during Trump presidency

President-elect Donald Trump ridiculed “the media” throughout his 511-day campaign for the nation’s highest public office.

In a series of tweets on Aug. 14, the soon-to-be 45th president called out The New York Times, and media in general, for “protecting” Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and being dishonest.

Edgar Simpson, a professor of journalism and public affairs at Central Michigan University, said the media were put into a position of needing to remain objective and yet telling the truth amid easily disprovable campaign rhetoric. This dichotomy caused issues with how audiences perceived Trump’s positions, such as a ban on Muslim immigration and deporting illegal immigrants.

“The media would repeatedly cover Trump as if his positions were a real thing, then find (a source) that says Trump’s positions were not a real thing,” he said. “What it does is it leads the audience into thinking there is a legitimate debate. No, there never was a debate. Nobody ever thought Trump could physically move 11 million people or ban a religion, but yet the media made it seem that way.”  

Despite attempting to be fair during this election, Simpson said the media will have to respond to backlash from the public.

“When we look back on this, we’ll see this as the cable news election,” Simpson said. “Trump is a creature created by the media, processed by the media and carried through by the media.”

The meaning of the word “media,” which Trump has used often during rally speeches, has evolved during the past few years, Simpson said.

Media outlets such as The New York TimesWashington PostLA Times and Philadelphia Inquirer approached covering this election differently than cable news.

Trump made the most shocking promise regarding the media Feb. 26 at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas. If elected, Trump said he would “open up” the country’s libel laws, allowing litigation against unfavorable stories easier.   

“We’re going to open up those libel laws so when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when the Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected,” he said. “We’re going to open up libel laws and we’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before.”

According to a 2015 Gallup poll, only 32 percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the media — the lowest number Gallup has ever reported. 

Sophomore Northville native Jacob Blaylock said he’s skeptical of the media because of the business-side of the industry.

“The news just fear mongers because it catches peoples’ interest,” he said. “Since (the audience) is scared, it makes them come back to the same network again to check up on whatever ‘crisis’ they were being told about, making the networks more money. That’s why peaceful protests are hardly reported on anymore — they aren’t scary enough.”

Moving forward, Simpson said the media may struggle to maintain credibility during a Trump presidency, but will also have a great opporutunity to serve a vital role as a watchdog.

“As much as journalism is in danger right now, it’s also a massive opportunity to prove, as it has several times in the past, that it is needed, it is essential and there is no way forward without good, penetrating, investigative journalism. That’s what this country needs right now.”


About Andrew Surma

Central Michigan Life Sports Editor

Central Michigan Life Editor in Chief (Summer 2016)

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