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Journalists Question How To Cover Trump

In this Nov. 4, 2016 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Hershey, Pa.
Associated Press
In this Nov. 4, 2016 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Hershey, Pa.

Journalists Question How To Cover Trump
Journalists Question How To Cover Trump GUEST: Laura Hazard Owen, deputy editor, Nieman Lab

If you knew more about the people who reported the news, would it make you understand the trust their reporting more? Or would it just make it easier to dismiss their fact-based information because you did not share their lifestyle? These are the questions that journalism in the age and now that administration in the press and more precise with the truth is in power. They were recently fired after writing a blog post about the difficulties he faced as a transgender man reporting on policies that marginalized his life. The post was called objectivity is dead. It has caused a lot of comet it out of journalism circles. Warning me is Laura Hazard Owen , deputy editor, Nieman Lab . Welcome to the program. Thank you. It is far from the only journalist to talk about the present moment challenges of being objective are neutral. What conversations are they having across the country as a plan how to cover the Trump administration? On a broad level, news organizations realize that the Trump administration is different and they are devoting more resources and different ways of reporting to it. For example, the New York Times just said that they are going to spend an extra $5 million devoted to covering that administration and CNN is building out an investigative reporting unit. They said that is actually going to use some of the techniques that the reporters have learned reporting on countries like Zimbabwe to start reporting on the United States. So the recognizing that this is a very different kind of political environment that we have been in before. President Trump has called the media the opposition party but let me read you a quote from Thomas Jefferson. He wrote nothing cannot be relieved which is seeing the newspaper truth itself become suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. Is this really a unique moment for journalists? I would argue that it is. Certainly, the idea of fake news, which is something that we are hearing a lot about now, is not a new concept. It's always been with us. It is easier to spread now that we have Facebook. The idea that people have not seen misleading reporting in the past is realistic. I think I would argue that they have said that the media is its enemy and lying about things like inauguration sizes and Russian hacking and increasing literate. There is a new level of deception here that is different from what we have seen before. The conversations and use rooms have a lot to do with the fact that newsrooms are more diverse than they've ever been. This idea of putting yourself forward and not being able to be completely impartial when it comes to certain issues is somehow tied up with that newsroom diversity. Can you tell us about that quick I think a lot of newsrooms are recognizing that it is a business imperative for them to become more diverse because for example, when it comes to newspapers they are shrinking and the main people who read newspapers are older. Newspapers need to try a lot of new things to bring in younger audiences and bring in more digital audiences. They are trying to hire staff who are younger and more female and people of color and people of different sexual orientations and backgrounds as that happens, it becomes a little bit harder to cling to these sort of notions of objectivity when you have reporters that cannot be tested it is hard to be objective about policy positions that are going to directly affect your life, if you are woman who is going to have a harder time getting birth-control or if you are person of color who may be facing more police violence under this administration. There have been women and newsrooms for quite some time reporting on all sorts of policies affecting women and yet they have struggled to be impartial. Why is diversity changing the rules about impartiality quick Another thing that is changing the rules is that the fact that in so many ways reporters now are required in their jobs to reveal more of themselves. Lots of newsrooms is a requirement that they are going to be on twitter and deal -- doing social media and going to be writing in a more conversational style I'm going to be doing lots of things but you would not have been required to do in the past. So I would argue that if there's going to be that requirement for reporters to show more of themselves and try new formats then we need to open up a little bit more on the other hand and allow reporters to show the political side of themselves as well. I don't think it means that they cannot report unfairly. Why is this discussion important to people who are not journalists? I think it is important to people who aren't journalists because it is going to affect the kind of coverage that we read and see. I think it's important that we know that we are getting responsible reporting and that we are seeing rather then news organizations committed to covering both sides equally that they leave out important information on one next slide or the other. If reporters were allowed to be more transparent about where they are coming from and why that that would help to build trust because it breaks down this notion of the media being sort of a big monolithic entity and really to show you some of the real people behind it. I think that is great for the future of the media business as well. I've been speaking with Laura Hazard Owen, deputy editor, Nieman Lab . Laura, thank you very much. Thank you.

President Trump has labeled the press an “opposition party,” repeated multiple falsehoods about election fraud and on Monday tweeted that any coverage of unfavorable poll results is “fake news.”

Newsrooms across the country are deciding how to cover an administration that’s hostile to the press and imprecise with the truth. Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler wrote last week that the wire service would draw on its experiences reporting in Egypt, China, Russia and Zimbabwe, where staffers face censorship and sometimes even physical threats.

“Don’t pick unnecessary fights or make the story about us,” Adler wrote. “We may care about the inside baseball but the public generally doesn’t and might not be on our side even if it did.”

Lewis Wallace, a former reporter for the public radio program Marketplace, was recently fired after he wrote a blog post called “Objectivity is dead, and I’m okay with it.” Wallace, a transgender man, said that as government officials shifted toward a “post-fact” worldview, it was impossible for responsible journalists to stay neutral. The idea that trans people don't have the right to exist is a falsehood, not an opinion, Wallace wrote, questioning whether people of color could be expected to cover "both sides" of a debate with a white supremacist.

“I think we are past the point where (news consumers) expect us to speak to a fictitious and ever-shifting center in order to appear ‘neutral,’” Wallace wrote. “In other words, we can check our facts, tell the truth, and hold the line without pretending that there is no ethical basis to the work that we do.”

Laura Hazard Owen follows the business and ethics of journalism as deputy editor of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. Owen covered Wallace’s dismissal and told KPBS Midday Edition on Monday how newsrooms are grappling with objectivity in the Trump administration.

“On a broad level, news organizations realize that the Trump administration is different and they are devoting more resources and different ways of reporting to it," said Owen. "I think that I would argue, however, that with an administration that has explicitly said that the media is its enemy, that is blatantly lying about things like inauguration crowd sizes, Russian hacking and increasing murder rates and things like that, I think there is a new level of deception here that is different than what we've seen before.”