Should the Press Be Interviewing Trump at All?

Serious question: How do you cover a candidate (if he ends up running in 2024) who’s running within the system but also trying to destroy it?

Jay Rosen, Media Critic, NYU Journalism Professor

Politics is usually seen as a party-on-party fight, with the press in the middle. But does that model fit anymore when one party has gone anti-democratic? Do readers and viewers learn anything useful if journalists just report who says what without reporting on what is true and what’s at stake? There’s a new mini-movement of pro-democracy press, one I’d say we’re proud to be a part of, but it should be much bigger.

From Jay Rosen, NYU Journalism Professor and Media Critic:

There’s nothing in the playbook of political journalism to address the situation where one of the two major parties is an active threat to democracy, and the other is kind of normal. Which isn’t to say that the Democratic Party doesn’t have problems and in many ways is failing to rise to the moment itself. But there’s simply no comparison between the normalcy of politics within the Democratic Party and what’s happening on the Republican side of the aisle. And adjusting to that kind of asymmetry, which I think is a major challenge for journalism, hasn’t gone very far.

Many reporters are afraid that if they do the basics, like identifying that one party has become fundamentally anti-democratic, they’ll get branded as biased by that party. (From Vice Reporter)

Absolutely. And that internalization of the bias critique is, to my mind, one of the most successful propaganda campaigns ever run in the United States. I would compare it to the tobacco industry in the 1950s and 60s or something like that. It’s been tremendously successful, and I don’t think that the political press as a whole has figured out what to do in that situation. 

Jay Rosen

“. . . . if Trump runs, . . . he’s going to relentlessly lie, and . . . “Stop the Steal” is going to be central to those lies… None of those things does the press have a method of handling in a political campaign. How do you cover a candidate who’s running within the system and trying to destroy the system at the same time?

The Vice reporter mentions the recent NPR interview and asks Rosen if the NPR strategy worked as a way to interview Trump. NPR was prepared with facts, context, sources. The strategy was effective in that it challenged the “Stop the Steal” propaganda. But the strategy was ineffective if the goal was to prevent the spread of disinformation and keep it from being amplified by NPR, then it was not effective at all.

Said Rosen: [About the NPR phone interview which Trump abruptly ended]

Trump was able to convey his message through atmospherics. The tone of suspicion, the denunciation of traitors, the threats to wavering politicians, the waving away of facts: All this came through loud and clear. [Morning Edition host] Steve Inskeep challenging many of Trump’s false claims actually adds to the atmosphere I am describing. For all the care NPR took—and I agree, it was impressive—the interview could not escape this logic. Which means we have to ask: Should Trump be interviewed at all? 

Source: VICE