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President Trump's "Unnecessary" Attacks on the Media "Appear to be Serving Him Well": Prof. Jeff McCall '76

President Trump's "Unnecessary" Attacks on the Media "Appear to be Serving Him Well": Prof. Jeff McCall '76

June 16, 2018

"President Trump bashing the press is seemingly now a routine component of every news development," writes Jeffrey M. McCall in The Hill. The professor of communication at DePauw University adds that the "continued attacks on the press are unnecessary and disregard the important role a free press plays in America."

In an op-ed column, McCall observes, "Trump’s media bashing strategy, however, appears to be serving him well. Citizen trust in the media remains disturbingly low. Trump’s approval ratings, while not overly impressive, have shown modest improvement. Thus, Trump’s anti-press barrages are apparently causing no negative consequences, except in the psyche of the reporting community, which no doubt delights Trump."

The professor says covering the Trump-Kim summit this week was "an enormous challenge" for the media, because the event was a "highly staged ... synchronized show. The visuals provided plenty of smiles and handshakes, the signing of a document that meant who-knows-what, and even Trump showing off his presidential limo. The media showed all of it, and kept showing it. The rhetorical power of visuals was obvious, but the press was left without any knowledge of what really happened in the closed door deliberations. Sure, Trump provided a lengthy post-summit press conference, but it is anybody’s guess about how closely his remarks in that context approximated the face-to-face encounter with Kim."

Dr. McCall continues, "Thus, with virtually no real facts to go on, the press was left to fill a huge news agenda with very little substance. A news organization could spin the summit as a great success of diplomacy. Just as easily, a news outlet could portray the summit as a failure, with Trump being duped while providing a despot with international legitimacy ... As has become custom in covering Trump, most media outlets chose to report the summit in a negative light for the Trump administration. In a football sense, the media out-kicked its coverage, over-reporting and speculating about what the summit did or did not accomplish. This overreach opened the door for Trump to again lash out at the media ... Trump’s criticism is self-serving, to be sure, but his assertion that certain news outlets consciously work against him resonates with his supporters and even many centrist citizens who want journalism to operate with a certain probity."

The column concludes, "The press must find a way to provide close scrutiny of the Trump administration, but without the appearance that it is “fighting hard” for anything other than accuracy and evenhandedness. The news industry will never make Trump happy and that is not its job. The press should, however, be a surrogate for the citizens, and surveys indicate the citizenry has little confidence in the institution. When the president and the press brawl, it is the American people who lose."

Read the complete essay -- headlined "Media breakdown enables Trump's onslaught against the press" -- at the newspaper's website.

Jeff McCall is a 1976 graduate of DePauw, where he was a Rector Scholar and speech (communication) major and worked on student radio station WGRE, which he now serves as faculty adviser. McCall earned a master's degree from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri. He joined the DePauw faculty in 1985 and authored Viewer Discretion Advised: Taking Control of Mass Media Influences.

Regularly quoted in reports on media matters, Dr. McCall was quoted this week in a Fox News story on ABC News, was recently cited in a Washington Times article on celebrities who fall from grace, and discussed Elon Musk's media criticisms with The Street.

Source: The Hill