Letters from our readers: Trump and the press

We received an unprecedented amount of reader feedback in response to several recent stories related to the media and President Donald Trump’s incoming administration. Here is a selection of emails and Facebook comments we’ve received since January 11. Please send correspondence to letters@cjr.org, along with your name, address, and any relevant affiliation. Reader feedback has been edited for length and clarity.

An open letter to Trump from the US press corps

I fully support your open letter to Donald Trump. Many colleagues and friends have suggested it would carry a lot more weight if the names and institutions of those supporting this letter were listed. I fully understand there may be some apprehension, but repercussions may be inevitable for any reporter doing his or her job in the course of this impending administration.

Katherine Arms Smerdon

Rome, Italy

 

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Was this letter indeed a collaboration? Many of us on the political sidelines certainly hope so. It’s what we’d like to think is happening within the press corps. So, is this circling of the wagons wishful thinking, or indeed happening?

Kind regards

Walt Boyle, Jr.

 

I have just read a generalized letter to Mr. Trump from the “press corps.” I agree with its content. I am wondering how it is you that is speaking for the entire press corps? I would hope that there is a lot of agreement from other members of your group, but also recognize that there are many members who may not agree or adhere to what you are saying. How is it that you hope to accomplish this unification of the press corps?

I am hopeful that the truth will continue to be exposed for the citizens of our great country. I admire the dedication, hard work, and sacrifices that are given to keep us all informed and able to make educated decisions for ourselves, our children, and our country.

Mary Lou Skelton

Washington D.C.

 

I loved your open letter to Trump. It’s exactly how I think the media should be and need to be reacting to him.

However, I can’t help but be suspicious with all the fake news flying around–are you for real? Shouldn’t you have listed exactly who your letter represented instead of just signing it “Press Corps”? I’m sure that would have helped people believe it was legitimate.

Dia Chigas

Kyle Pope responds: We heard from a number of readers who wanted to know which members of the press corps signed on to the letter or who precisely the opinions represented. The answer: mine. This was a signed opinion piece by me, and my use of the Open Letter was a device I used to talk to the president as well as to the news media itself. While this is a common-enough approach, I regret if anyone reading the letter was confused.

 

After Trump’s rude dismissal of Jim Acosta [at his Jan. 11 press conference], I commented on an article in Raw Story: “Be nice if the major media would get together and agree on some ground rules for interviews and press conferences.”

You have written the article I have been wanting to see. This is a form of resistance we need—unity in the press corps, not competition. Collective support, not silence and passivity when Trump and his lackeys discredit and abuse a cherished and Constitutionally-protected institution and the courageous journalists who are surely facing some of the most intimidating circumstances I can recall in my lifetime.

Kim Whittington

Thank you for your open letter to Trump. Free press is so important in protecting our democracy.  Best of luck to you all over the next four years.

Katia Buffe

 

Former journalist here. Your letter to PEOTUS is brilliant. Thank you!

May Warejcka

 

Excellent letter to Trump regarding how the press will cover him. It is extra important now to cover him and his cabinet in all their egregious wonder. But isn’t this a typo? “Best-case scenario, you’re going to be in this job for eight years.” Last time I checked, that was the worst case. I hope that hasn’t changed!

Sally Goldman

 

I read the open letter with great interest. Here is my response, as an ordinary American who consumes news from outlets like The New York Times, The Economist, The New Yorker, and Harper’s as well as CNN, MSNBC, and sometimes Fox and The National Review:

I like this open letter, but we, the people, need much more of an admission of prominent guilt, especially by TV outlets (like CNN, for example), that played an enormous role in the election of Donald Trump. Non-stop coverage of trivial tidbits and superficialities gave more attention to this unusual candidate than to any other in political history! What does that tell us about the priorities and integrity of the current press corps?

The public did not need to know every time Donald Trump blew his nose, nor every time he said something outrageous, or did something that people in the news just couldn’t get enough of, no matter how meaningless. But equal coverage of candidates like Clinton and Sanders would have been the least they could do, especially cable media. I was a Clinton supporter, but even I can recognize that Bernie Sanders deserved far more coverage than he received.

One might even consider whether Donald Trump would have been elected at all had the coverage of the presidential campaign been drastically different. I think we can agree that possibility is one the press needs to live with now. We live in an age when less airtime means less messaging. But Donald Trump the candidate got all the messaging he ever needed and much, much more. He still does. Real journalism is losing. Even coverage of his tweets, by far the most manipulative of his propaganda efforts, is rarely contextualized well. But of course “crazy” drives the news. Or is it the bottom line?

In conclusion, the media played an extraordinary role in electing this president. Much of me feels that they should continue to pay the price. You may disagree.

So the question is, as an ordinary American, why should I trust the press to do the right thing now, when they’ve done the wrong thing for the last year and half? The mea culpa comes too late. That does not mean the work ahead cannot be done well, but profound changes are needed inside newsrooms all across the country. What I am getting from this open letter is something of a rebuke, but also a realistic outline of how the press may work.

I am willing to trust the press, but you have a long way to go to earn back my trust, and I’m going to speculate that most of America feels this way, too. The only thing we all know is that coverage of the 2016 campaign focused pretty much entirely on one candidate, and that candidate won.

Dean Rosenthal

 

Great letter to Trump. I have been worried about the media being bamboozled by him. Thank you for restoring my faith.  

Jean Gaumer

 

The world of journalism that you all inhabit is a realm of relativism in which truth is in the eye of the beholder. You do not believe in objective truth. If you did, you would not be inciting rage in America through your incendiary biased reporting. Thank God we have a president who has the balls to stand up to you bunch of hacks. Just the fact that you are going after him like this shows that you are a bunch of leftist universal homogeneous state ideologues with no roots in an authentic culture.

I laugh every time Trump manifests to the world your idiocy and agenda. He’s going to continue to do this by coaxing you out of your comfortable, self-serving world. I love how you all are acting so offended at his combativeness, as though he doesn’t have the right to stand up and attack your obvious assaults on his agenda and character. Have you not realized yet that he has chosen to do battle with you? The idea that you’re objective is laughable. Your newspapers and publications are owned by leftist morons, and so you yourselves are owned. At least he’s not owned. I don’t condone his tone at times, and he’s a bit too rash. It’s not the press he’s against; it’s leftist propaganda press he is doing battle with, thank God. Oh wait, you probably don’t believe in the author of objective truth, the one from whom the inalienable rights of this country come.

You are responsible for the violence and rage in this country because you have decided to create multiple victim narratives that could seriously harm people. If things get bad, it is due to your irresponsible reporting. I know you’re not a newspaper, but Columbia is a seedbed for some of the worst relativist education that is out there.

“We believe there is an objective truth, and we will hold you to that.” Who guards the guardians? The press? Save us if that’s the case…

Peter Searby

 

I am a photojournalist in Portland, Oregon. It is imperative to the very survival of our republic that intentional, repeated lying by those in power be challenged by the serious mainstream press.

If a politician says that he was in place X at time Y, and I have an authentic photograph of him somewhere else at that time, I have the responsibility–as does my editor–to make that public. It is my job, and it is yours.

Mike Pence said this: “As I’ve said, Donald Trump won a landslide American. The American people spoke decisively. They wanted change.” (This quote is from CBS’s transcript.) Trump has made similar claims elsewhere, and the fact that Pence repeated this twice during the interview in almost identical words shows that it is a canned talking-point.

It was CBS’s duty to stop his overtalk right there and then, and tell him that the facts are different. It may not have been polite, but being “polite” is not the pinnacle of the press’ duties. Donald Trump’s Electoral College margin of victory was 56.5 percent; he lost the popular vote by about three million votes. These are not mathematical quibbles. Pence’s statement is a deliberate, intentional denial of known and agreed on facts. The fact that he said it is more important than the actual statement itself.

I expect more from the CBS of Rather, Jennings, and Brokaw.

Best regards,

John Rudoff

 

I am a former (thank God) reporter. I worked in Washington from 1985 to 1990, and was credentialed in Congress and at the White House. I didn’t vote for either Trump or Clinton. If you search my name online, and you will find that I’m a longtime Democrat and current independent.

I wasn’t happy with what you wrote, and I will tell you why. For starters, I think the tone was needlessly combative, high-handed, insecure, brittle, and arrogant. A confident exponent of media rights would have written his letter in a very different style, even to a pugilistic New Yorker like Donald Trump. Congratulations on taking the bait.

Specifically:

 

  1. The ground rules are theoretically the media’s to set, but in practice it’s the other way around. Each outlet will take what it can get. If the high-minded, high-handed legacy media gets too cute, Trump will go around you. You know it, and so does he. So cut the bullshit.
  2. The threat to ban Trump from “your” airwaves is laughable. Just who in hell do you think you are to issue such a stupid, empty, arrogant threat?
  3. Facts are what you do? Oh please. It gets worse and worse. Just look at any story about guns or global warming, for starters. Increasingly, the media’s self-conceived role is to order people around.
  4. Obsess over the details of government, and fan out over the agencies? Come on, even in its glory days the media didn’t do that. Today? Who do you think you’re kidding?
  5. Set higher standards? With declining staffs and an ever more tribal, partisan opposition stance? I hope you don’t believe what you wrote, because the costliest lies are the ones we tell ourselves.
  6. Work together? In your dreams. As I wrote before, if the legacy media gets too cheeky, he’ll replace you. Just wait until the White House press room has three times as many media representatives, with two-thirds of them from right-wing talk shows.

Honestly, Mr. Pope, I am embarrassed for you.

Charlie Pluckhahn

 

I just bought a subscription to your service and I am watching the next year of coverage. If you continue down this line without balking, you will have a customer for life.

The press needs to be ferocious in the face of any BS. This is an existential threat to the equilibrium that has been carefully established between the president and the press. It’s one

of the worst things about the Trump presidency.

Constantine

 

You wrote: “You’ve ridiculed a reporter who wrote something you didn’t like because he has a disability.” Considering that you repeat the same “fact”* that’s been disproven both in written form and video, no one can or should seriously entertain the notion of any future “accurate, fearless reporting” or ethical standards by the American press corps.

That Mr. Trump mocked a reporter is fact; that he did it because of the reporter’s disability is your (and others’) interpretation. Perhaps a day will come wherein the media will report a fact without spinning the fact. But not today.

Horace Luvenalis

 

I just read your article and wanted you to know how much I appreciate the needed break for a few good laughs! Thanks for those few moments of relief.

As I prepare a lecture to my students about the relationship of journalism to truth, I found a nice current example that very much explains why I find your article so damn cute and funny. Especially the section beginning with, “We believe there is an objective truth, and we will hold you to that. When you or your surrogates say or tweet something that is demonstrably wrong, we will say so, repeatedly.”

This morning, NBC’s Today Show did a self-labelled “fact check” segment with Ari Melber, who said the role of Trump’s tweets on job creation or preservation was “non-existent”. Around 45 minutes later, Peter Alexander, reporting from Trump Tower, said that Trump had been watching that segment and had responded via Twitter that the NBC report was “totally biased” and “fake news.” When the camera went back to Matt Lauer, he quickly said “Alright Peter, thanks for pointing that out,” and pivoted quickly to B-roll of stars and stripes and Olympic theme music to announce (in a very positive voice) NBC’s coverage of the inauguration.

So where’s this push for truth? Where’s any bit of this great solidarity of which you speak? Matt Lauer should have repeated the claim and said that NBC stands by its own report. I expect that we will see more and more of these gutless responses.

God save us, because we surely cannot count on the media.

I will discuss your article in class, and if one of my students labels your article “fake news,” I may not disagree with him.

Tom Nault, MFA

Adjunct Instructor

New England Institute of Technology

 

We very much hope you do every single one of the things you said you would do in your letter.

The US Public

Lawrence Reichard

San Juan, Comalapa, Chimaltenango, Guatemala

 

Thank you for writing the open letter. I hope that all journalists stick together, so that the new administration has no chance of splitting the press corps in pieces. I wish you guys every success. Our country needs that.

Henning Wriedt

 

We, the American public, need the media pay close attention right now, because something very troubling is happening in our democracy. This has not been a normal election. I would hope that most of you have studied history, including patterns of how right-wing dictatorships take hold in democratic countries. The president elect shows every hallmark of right-wing authoritarianism, and we need you to rise to the occasion.

You must challenge–loudly and repeatedly–things that are not normal. It is not enough to limit those challenges to the opinion pages, or stick them in the middle of a long article in the context of a “he said, she said.” Many readers only see the headlines on the front page, and that is where you must challenge things that are not normal.

It is not normal for a President-elect to choose a leader in the nation’s white supremacist movement as one of his advisors (which they now coyly call the “alt-right”). Please do not normalize Steve Bannon’s long-term history with this movement or stop questioning Trump and his surrogates about it. The white supremacists of the nation have certainly taken note. So should we.

It is not normal for the election of a president to coincide with a fourfold increase in hate crimes. It is also not normal for many perpetrators of those hate crimes to specifically cite the election of the president as having emboldened them. It is not normal for publications of the KKK and neo-Nazi groups to celebrate or endorse a president, or to salute him with the Nazi salute and the thinly Americanized cry of “Hail, Trump!” It is not normal for the president-elect and the people around him to denounce these movements only in mushy terms, and only when prompted by reporters to do so.

It is not normal that Trump leaves the citizens of this country blind to his business interests, which may stand in direct conflict with the good of the country, by refusing to release his tax returns. He is counting on you to stop asking about it. Don’t. Your silence implies consent.

It is not normal for the President-elect’s adult children to act as part of the newly elected government, let alone to do so while simultaneously running the family business. It is not normal for the President-elect’s children to sit in on meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders and business leaders, or to make suggestions for cabinet appointments, some of whom could have a direct impact on their business dealings. Nor is it normal that we frequently find out about such contacts through the foreign press, because the American press was shut out of that information.

It is not normal for the President-elect to nominate multiple people to his cabinet who are billionaires with no experience in governing, but who do have potential conflicts of interest that rival his own.

It is not normal for there to be a revolving door between major “news” outlets, economic powerhouses, and powerful political positions. It is not normal for the President-elect to build his own propaganda machine, bypassing the mainstream media, who were given First Amendment rights precisely so that you can be a check on power. Two of his closest advisors, Roger Ailes, formerly of Fox News, and Steve Bannon of Breitbart, have run their own media empires. In addition to serving as a clearinghouse for white supremacists, Breitbart news famously peddles false “facts” and conspiracy theories. While not as egregious as Breitbart, Fox News has also promoted patently false ideas, including birtherism, climate change denial, and the myth of widespread voter fraud.

It is not normal for the president-elect to bully the press; to corral them and intimidate them during rallies, to denounce some of them by name, to not speak up when his followers subsequently intimidate and threaten them (often using racist and anti-Semitic slurs); to refuse to hold press conferences in which he must answer actual questions; to call in major media outlets only to berate them; to control a one-way dialogue through tweets and rallies where he can make proclamations, but not answer questions. The fact that he does this should not be a sideline: This should be the headline, because it is a necessary step for any authoritarian who wishes to consolidate power to control the information.

He is a master at distracting the public and the press with shiny objects (“Look! Kanye!”) while all of this happens. Just because he picks up a fiddle, doesn’t mean we have to dance.

He seeks to keep you off balance by routinely bullying you, alternating with magnanimous offers of “special access” to those who agree with or won’t challenge him. Any of you who go along with this scheme are legitimizing this behavior, and the resulting work is not journalism, but propaganda. Legitimate media outlets should refuse to publish any such propaganda.

Efforts to silence and intimidate critics, directly or through surrogates, are not normal. The pattern of Donald Trump denouncing individuals publicly who subsequently receive death threats from his followers continues. As one recent example, Trump denounced Carrier’s union leader by name in a series of tweets. The union leader has since been receiving death threats, which Trump has yet to denounce. However, attacking journalists, union leaders, protesters, and critics is disturbingly normal among one group: right-wing authoritarians.

Russian interference in our election is not normal. This is especially true when the public has no way of knowing that candidate’s financial interests with regards to Russia (see tax returns, above), and when that same candidate surrounds himself with close advisors who have known close ties to Russia. These include Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, whose PR company received $12.7 million from a pro-Russia party in the Ukraine; his national security advisor, Michael Flynn; and his nominee for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson of Exxon. Mr. Tillerson was in the middle of negotiating a half trillion dollar business deal with Russia that was stopped in its tracks when the State Department issued sanctions against Russia in response to its invasion of Crimea. That is the same State Department that he would be in charge of if his nomination as Secretary of State goes through.

It is not normal for major political figures to take part in wild eyed conspiracy theories. Donald Trump was a major purveyor of the lie that President Obama was not born here. His most recent conspiracy theory was that millions of people voted illegally, a dangerous conspiracy theory that has been repeatedly disproven, but that he will likely use to further suppress the popular vote and justify it with false claims of voter fraud. According to the non-partisan fact checking group, Politifact, while on the campaign trail, a whopping 74 percent of Donald Trump’s statements were lies. That should have been a headline, not a buried statistic.

He has repeatedly retweeted articles from outlets such as Breitbart news and Alex Jones (who, among other conspiracies, has promoted the belief that Sandy Hook was faked, leading to recent death threats to one of the bereaved Sandy Hook parents). His spokespeople and Republicans in Congress who know better have refused to correct patent falsehoods and wild conspiracies. That is not normal.

It is not normal for an increasing number of the President-elect’s surrogates to say outright that facts no longer matter, or for the press to accept this. When Chris Wallace of Fox News announced ahead of time that he would not be fact checking when he moderated the third presidential debate, there was no outcry from the journalistic community. To accept silently that fact checking is no longer a central part of journalism is not normal.

It is not enough to ignore outrageous lies and conspiracy theories. The fact that the mainstream media has done so for years, cowed by manipulative accusations of “liberal bias,” has allowed one of the two major parties of this country to drift off the rails of reality. 65 percent of Republicans in this country now believe that President Obama was not born in the United States. Millions of people of goodwill falsely believed that Hillary Clinton took part in conspiracies that involved everything from murder to child molestation. In failing to bring forth and challenge lies and conspiracy theories, and by slavishly adhering to a false narrative that “both sides do everything equally,” the mainstream media enabled those who are willing to lie and manipulate to successfully seize power.

You must go back to the original definition of unbiased–standing with the facts–and leave behind once and for all the false version you have adopted over the last few years of simply standing in the middle between what two different sides are saying.

Both Republicans and Democrats have always had their extremists, but there is only one party at this time in history that has become a fact-free zone in which wild-eyed conspiracy theories can make their way unchallenged into the upper echelons of the people surrounding and advising the president–including the president elect himself.

And this, dear media, is the entire reason for the first amendment. You are supposed to be a check on this. Authoritarian dictatorships cannot take over democracies without massive false propaganda that goes unchecked.

You, the media, must remind the public of the history of right-wing authoritarianism, and the process by which right-wing authoritarian governments take over democracies. As a candidate, his bullying of the press was remarkable, but even more remarkable was your silence around it. Secrecy, bullying and intimidating critics and the press, lying and false propaganda; these are not side issues. These processes are essential ingredients to authoritarian takeovers. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Media, the ball is in your court.

Thank you again for your work.

Kathy Campbell

Sacramento, California

 

Once trust is lost it is nigh impossible to regain. Journalism in the US will be enclosed in scare quotes until further notice. “Journalism.” Ha! Better journalists are doing better journalism elsewhere. You are lost. Goodbye.

John L Jordan

 

I read your article, and was amused. Certainly, print media has not been as biased and egregious as video but that is a distinction without much difference.

What I found missing in your article is the admission that journalists, as a rule, are biased to the left. That is the nature of the beast. In fact, I have seen polls showing that a majority do not even believe in the right of private property. Several of my classmates at Cornell University went into journalism and to a person were fairly hard left.  

Finally, the print media has not covered itself in glory in the past election. The Washington Post reportedly assigned over 20 reporters to dig up dirt and write negative articles on Donald Trump. Did they do the same for Hillary Clinton? No, no they did not.

Donald Trump has the ability now to communicate directly with the public without the filter of the media.  Roosevelt used the new media of the time, radio, to have fireside chats.

I don’t agree with Donald Trump on several issues. His personality is familiar to me having been exposed to Queens and western Long Island classmates. Yes, it is grating, but one gets used to it. However, what I don’t have patience for is the bias and constant negativity of the press after they have given the current administration a pass for the last eight years. Out here in the flat land, we call the press, “pressitutes.”  Unfortunately, it fits.

John H. Reynolds

Piqua, Ohio

 

Everything in your open letter was wonderful, and no citizen should oppose it. I would love it if we had a press that functioned just as you laid out in your letter. However, the root of the problem the press faces was not addressed.

We citizens witnessed an embarrassingly fawning press form a protective wall around Hillary and Obama. We saw reporting that was more akin to the behavior of teenage girls encountering their favorite pop star. This was quite literally true, right down to their star-struck smiling faces. We saw the press photography of Obama that literally and creatively attempted to create halos on him with ambient light. Google Obama halo photos. It’s shameless.

You embarrassed yourselves. Have you seen Sam Donaldson with Reagan? He was good. He was very aggressive. So who was the Sam Donaldson of the Obama era? You mention standing together. Did the press stand with Sharyl Attkisson who had the Obama administration’s FBI break into her computer? Did you unite to support Wikileaks’s Julian Assange, who did nothing more than The New York Times did in publishing stolen classified information?

We all support an aggressive free press, but you must face a fact: You alone have created this bad relationship with the Trump White House by refusing to be just as aggressive against Obama and Hillary. My point is that you must choose. Are you a mere advocacy group, on a mission to protect some, and to attack others? Or, are you a true objective journalist who counts nobody in government as a friend and ally? This matters deeply. At this moment, it appears to be the former. As long as that is the case, you will not get the respect journalists have historically received.

I would be heartened if you sincerely reflected on this and didn’t just dismiss this as the ravings of a Trumper, alt-right activist, racist, sexist, red state-dweller, or some of the other labels that are too often used to negate the honest observations of people like me.

Michael Woolley

 

Kyle Pope, et al:

Quit leading with your partisanship. Please. Just. Stop. It.

Kevin Burnett

Valley Center, KS

 

Nice letter. Very comprehensive and professional. Just one question: Where have you been for the last eight years?

 

Sincerely yours

Dave Carver

 

Your open letter to Trump was marvelous, although he surely found all those big words daunting. Your letter is also vital for citizens, to remind them how and why the press serves us and why democracy depends on the freedom of the press. Trump has sworn to uphold the Constitution; it would be nice to see him impeached over his many attempts to deny others the freedoms guaranteed in that document.

Melanie Hogue

New York, NY

 

I have read your letter to President Trump. I must say, as just a humble “house-hubby,” you have absolutely no clue what has happened–and is continuing to happen–in the US media.

People simply do not trust any legacy media sources. Time and again, those that are willing to dig deeper than the print/audio/video of the old-time media find lies, agenda, and bias.

In short, we don’t care what you say, what you do, or what you want.

If Mr. Trump were to announce on his first day in office that he would entertain zero media involvement, you would find that those of us that helped him win the office would still be getting his information. We would put him in again in four years, without a single good thing from the MSM.

I can attest to this, because he got the job without any significant help from media this first time.

To about half this nation, the media that you represent in your letter is Public Enemy No. 1. Your rules simply don’t matter. To be honest, we’ve reached the point where anything we hear, be it from CNN, Fox News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc., we know how to reverse it to find the facts.

Sincerely

Stuart A. Rowland

 

Your letter was perfect! Thank you press corps! Stick it to him, and next time Trump tries to bully a reputable news source like CNN, please stand up to him immediately, and leave the room en masse! I think you were all surprised and in shock last week, but now you know what to expect. No more shock effect. Leave his precious press conference en mass immediately! Do not tolerate his autocratic attempts to control the news. Nothing will irk him more than losing his audience.

I hope that you can all get on board with this. I was not pleased how no one stood up for Acosta. Not good.

Lisa Filippi, Ph.D

Associate Professor of Biology

Hofstra University

 

Here’s an idea. Everyone, quietly and without fanfare, boycott any White House briefings for a week or two. Mr. Trump, the narcissus, will crash and burn.

Debbie Witter

 

I managed to read your letter to the president until I got to the point where you repeated the lies of him “mocking a reporter’s disability.” This story has been thoroughly debunked and to continue this lie just ends any credibility you would have had. Now that I think about it, you actually said “mocked a disabled reporter that wrote something he didn’t like.” This is technically true, but obfuscates the issue, given the popular narrative and is perhaps even more disingenuous than stating the outright lie. In any event I would like to point out several things that are common knowledge of thinking people everywhere:

  1. You have been nothing but lapdogs of Obama, openly fawning over him and actively covering up his criminal behavior, particularly in regard to the administration’s targeting of ordinary citizens for persecution by the IRS and multiple other government agencies. Had you merely reported the truth regarding Obama, let alone spread untrue derogatory information regarding him as you do Trump, he would have never won the election in the first place.
  2. You did not report on the 2016 election, but rather openly campaigned for Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump. You are not an “independent press,” but merely a propaganda arm of the Democratic party.  
  3. Your objective is to obtain the removal from office, as quickly as possible, the democratically elected president, Donald Trump. You are not intending to cover him objectively, but see him as an enemy to defeat.

The American people rejected you and your dishonesty. Hillary’s defeat was your defeat. You are the enemy of truth, decency, morality, and goodness. You are the enemy of the American people.

I would be embarrassed to have you as a family member or friend, given your conduct. You are not journalists and should be convicted of fraud for claiming to be journalists. You are completely irrelevant to the American people and how we obtain and process information on current events. Everyone is on to you and your dishonesty, and you are the only ones who are not yet aware of it. Please cease your criminal activity so the world will be a better place.

James Brown  

 

Here is a story idea for you regarding your “Open Letter”: Go f**k yourself you lying arrogant piece of s**t and take your pathetic crybaby un-American press corps with you! I and half the country are so fed up with you.

A real American   

 

I was disappointed that there was no mention of Mr. Trump’s chorus of paid applauders and cheerers in the back of the room [during his Jan. 11 press conference], whose express purpose was to prop up their master and put down the press. Can we expect this abomination to become a regular and unchallenged addition to all future Trump press conferences?

I was also disappointed in the press itself for not coming to the defense of CNN reporter Jim Acosta after Mr. Trump strangely conflated CNN with Buzzfeed–and strangely enough, that he would permit his obvious disdain for BuzzFeed to ooze out– but then we’ve come to accept such behavior as another norm, haven’t we?

Call me a romantic, but I somehow expected to hear the next reporter chosen by Trump to ask the same question Mr. Acosta attempted to pose, and if that reporter was thwarted, the next reporter pursue the same point and so on until Trump stormed out of the press conference–or the entire room (save Trump’s shills) stormed out on him.

If you’re setting ground rules for the ”toddler-elect” on how to behave with the press, I would start by not allowing him to turn press conferences into just one more sideshow, like everything else. Tell him, and the nation, it’s simply unacceptable.

Wally Hayman

Gladwyne, PA

 

Donald Trump frequently puts down legitimate news sources, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other outlets, calling them the “lyin’ media,” while praising illegitimate sources.

Suggestion: Publish a statement on the news sources websites, indicating that legitimacy by attaching the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics as a sort of a Good Housekeeping seal of approval. If the SPJ could agree to endorse media sources that abide by its principles, then the public could understand whether their news source is legitimate or not.

This would distinguish between news sources that fact check first before publishing and news sources that publish first and ask questions later.

As a minimum, a statement, with a link to the ethics code page would differentiate legitimate newspapers and other outlets from less credible news sources.

Joan Bradee

 

I just read your open letter to Donald Trump, and just wanted to send a quick note of thanks. Thank you for standing up to him and asserting the rights of the press. It’s inspiring to hear that journalists will work together, as I think we all must in the years to come.

Jessica Toman

 

Give me a break. You abandoned all of those standards and principles eight years ago. You blew it. The public got used to making up its own mind, not listening to everything through your arrogant, un-self aware, pompous, liberal filter. Had such an “error” happened in the 70s, you could have been “forgiven” because you were still needed. Now, not only are you not perceived as “needed,” but even if you could potentially provide some useful service, you have no credibility. Epic fail.

Don Susswein

 

Thank you for putting Trump on notice about his dictatorial attitude toward the press. The next time he or one of his employees threatens to remove a journalist, I would like to see every journalist and/or reporter leave as well. To see the expression on Trump’s face would be priceless. Please, band together and walk out on him. Show him complete unity. I appreciate the message you have sent him.

JoAnn Shapiro

 

My hope is that the letter is serious about the intentions of the press. Leaving aside that you are a day late and a dollar short. Please, for the sake of the country, do this.

But know, that I–an avid news consumer–am watching the output of the mainstream media. I have other sources and find your associates sorely lacking in integrity, fairness, and accuracy. Unfolding events will determine my confidence in you. I struggle to give credence to your intentions, much less your current reporting.

I reluctantly voted for Trump. Watching the televised results—more specifically the reaction of the newscasters who reported the results–I began to feel much better about my vote. At this point, watching the responses after the election, I am fairly confident I made the correct choice.

Please, please keep Trump and his administration under the microscope. But know that this may be your last chance to matter.

Andy Valentine

Brentwood, TN

 

I have nothing to do with the Trump administration; I am just an ordinary everyday American.  I understand your frustration at having limited access to the new administration, however I applaud Trump. We don’t need you.

Once upon a time, I had to watch the news. It was a daily habit. But the news media has not been objective, and as much as you tout your wanting to present accurate facts, I don’t believe it. The vast majority of the press has been openly hostile and published unverified “facts” as well as fake news. Personally, I’m done with you.

If you want better access to the administration, my advice is to present news objectively and without hostility and aggression against the Trump administration. And for pity’s sake, check and recheck your facts before presenting them. Prove your worth to the public by good honest old fashioned reporting and earn back the respect before demanding access. I’ve found my accurate news sources on the internet and don’t need you. If I hear it directly from President Trump, I don’t have to worry about you people taking statements out of context and twisting them.

There are many more like me.  

Suzanne Codding

An American disgusted with the political agendas of the press

 

This is an inaccurate and horribly worded sentence: “You’ve ridiculed a reporter who wrote something you didn’t like because he has a disability.”

Trump did not ridicule him because he has a disability. He ridiculed him because he wrote something that was inaccurate–and then Trump mimicked his disability when he confronted him.

I edited a lot of Trump copy over the past 18 months, and a lot of it was either misleading or inaccurate. AP actually did an inconclusive story about where his hats were made (they ended up finding out some of the material could have been produced in a foreign land).

I was a reporter for 20 years, so I know exactly how lazy reporters can be. And now that I  edit copy, I know exactly how overworked editors are. Things get by. These are not the good old days. But we still have the responsibility to report facts.

While not a fan of Trump, he has taken a lot of hits from reporters who simply fall back on the attribution excuse: They said it. I attributed it. I wrote it.

Reporters and editors need to stop emptying the notebook. They need to listen carefully. They need to use the correct words.

When Anderson Cooper said Trump sexually assaulted women during the CNN debate–and that became recycled in sound bites and sentences–he forgot that in the Billy Bush tape Trump said the women “let” him do things.

I am ashamed of this profession and what it has become, and it will only get worse in the next four years.

We have become white noise. And while will chronicle every move of our next president, hoping beyond hope for a stumble, the public is watching us, hoping beyond hope for a stumble.

Bill Wolverton

 

YOU ARE FAKE NEWS!

Theresa Green

 

Trump berated a CNN reporter, and fellow journalists missed an opportunity

Wow. He didn’t berate the guy. He called out CNN for doing a terrible job. I wouldn’t have answered his question, either.

Anna Mitchell

 

I’d say the press did the right thing for the first time in years. Who are you pod people, thinking one immoral media outlet should be defended by the rest? CNN has repeatedly lied to the people, lied about people, and lied about observable reality. That is the bed they made for themselves. It should be a lesson to all others to sharpen your personal character, not abandon it altogether.

Topher Levickas

 

The journalist who followed should have stood up and said she’s giving her question to CNN. Every so-called journalist in that room should have demanded CNN be heard or walked out. Instead they all smiled that the confrontation gave them their “moment” for their pieces. Trump wins again, and always will when so-called journalists pay more attention to their ratings than to our profession or our democracy.

Tina Luque

 

Journalists should band together. This is the First Amendment we’re talking about here. If he does it to one and gets away with it, he’ll just keep on until nobody gets to ask a question. If we only hear what he wants us to hear, well doesn’t that sound like Russia and Vladimir Putin? We must encourage our investigative journalists! They help to keep politicians honest. They certainly won’t be honest if they’re not worried about reporters “telling on them.”

Lisa Parham Epperson

 

I felt a little disheartened listening to the “press conference.” I don’t know what they could have done, but I think they let their desperation to get a story out of Trump diminish their brotherhood/sisterhood.

Maureen Kathleen Gallant

 

CNN violated journalistic ethics. It is a dishonor on the good name of Columbia to defend their reckless behavior.

Jack Spencer

 

Buzzfeed was right to publish Trump-Russia file

 

I enjoyed your take on the BuzzFeed controversy and wish other mainstream journalists respected the decision. It’s insane to think all journalism is verified.

I’m reminded of a baseline value of journalism, that what’s practical is key. The results of this will likely be a stronger democracy, I hope.

Mike Mott

 

CJR’s arguments supporting Buzzfeed’s publication of the questionable dossier on Donald Trump strike me as Jesuitical and they are a sad reflection of where we are as a profession these days. I find it troubling that they should be mounted by the managing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, which markets itself as “Encouraging excellence in journalism.”

I don’t see how CJR’s managing editor is promoting excellence in journalism by endorsing the publication of material of huge scope that was not verified and about which its publishers apparently harbored doubts. CJR seems to be arguing that it is okay to take a punt to see what happens, to see if any leads are generated, even if people are smeared as a result.

By that standard, we should all shove up stuff on the internet to see what works or doesn’t, even if we have major doubts about the veracity of what we have just posted. I sense underpinning this piece is a belief that the allegations about Trump must largely be true. When something looks too good, it might well be the case that it is! In short, it might not be true. And as journalists, we have a responsibility to try to get as close to the truth as possible before we decide to publish.

CJR asks, “But did reporters independently verify all the allegations against Hillary Clinton and her allies contained in the emails released by WikiLeaks?” No, they didn’t, but it was Wikileaks–not a bona fide news organization–that published the material. Once in the public realm, news outlets had no choice but to follow the story.

CJR seems to think that media outlets were just sitting on the dossier. Many weren’t. They were working to try to prove the allegations or to knock them down. Yes, that takes time, as she notes. Investigations can take months and sometimes years, although in this case I doubt it would have taken years. Premature publication has screwed up quite a lot of journalists who have been working on the dossier and complicated efforts to get the backstory

The dossier is full of contradictions and basic factual errors, as I noted in an opinion article for The Hill and as Andrei Soldatov did in a piece for The Guardian. Perversely, The Guardian chose to headline Andrei’s article misleadingly, “The leaked Trump-Russia dossier rings frighteningly true.” In fact, he was casting grave doubt on the material.

Some errors in the dossier are so basic that they cast huge doubt on the skills of Christopher Steele, the former British MI6 agent responsible for preparing the memos. Let me give you a few instances: The misspelling of “Alpha” for “Alfa” in reference to one the most important banks in Russia; the wrong FSB department when it comes to eavesdropping or cyber investigations; the naming of an official as having been tasked to deal with the US election who was actually tasked with the Russian elections and, anyway, moved from Vladimir Putin’s office to the State Duma in October.

Then we have unexplained and troubling contradictions, such as the material on Trump’s business deals in Russia, or rather the lack thereof. One memo states: “The Kremlin cultivation operation on Trump also had comprised offering him various lucrative real estate development business deals in Russia, especially in relation to the ongoing 2018 World Cup soccer tournament. However, so far from reasons unknown Trump had not taken up any of them.” But in another memo we get this: “Regarding Trump’s claimed minimal investment profile in Russia, a separate source with direct knowledge said this had not been for want of trying. Trump’s previous efforts had included exploring the real estate sector in St. Petersburg as well as Moscow.”

So which is it? He tried to secure business deals and failed, or was offered lucrative deals, but for unknown reasons didn’t take them up? Such factual errors and contradictions should have stopped Buzzfeed from posting the dossier. They did discourage others.

The media world seems to be divided into three groups now. One group comprises those who hate Trump so much that they can and will believe anything of him. They have relatives on the other side of the aisle–those who hate Hillary Clinton so much they can and will believe anything of her–even that she has been overseeing a human trafficking operation! Finally, there are the poor sane souls in the middle, who might love or hate Trump, or even be indifferent to him, but who hold fast to professional standards and try to base their articles on facts.

Jamie Dettmer

Foreign Correspondent

Voice of America

 

If this article is indicative of the state of journalism today, it’s no wonder it’s in such shambles! Journalists need to take a basic introductory course in logic. These types of reasoning errors shouldn’t be in articles written by the people delivering our news.

Here is the most prominent one: “Several aspects of the mainstream media’s reaction demand further scrutiny. Some critics seem to be saying that unless the information in an intelligence briefing or other leaked document can be independently verified by reporters, it shouldn’t be published. But did reporters independently verify all the allegations against Hillary Clinton and her allies contained in the emails released by WikiLeaks?….Why was it acceptable to publish that story based on an email, and not documents whose content intelligence officials considered important enough to share with the president and president-elect?”

This is such a terrible argument. I am amazed to see it from CJR. The e-mails released by WikiLeaks were e-mails written by people in the Clinton campaign and the DNC. It was their insider talk, and many mainstream outlets did, in fact, verify they were authentic. Donna Brazile was also fired from CNN (The DNC doesn’t have enough ethics to do the same). So, to suggest some sort of equivalency between very brazen allegations regarding Trump (not necessarily false) and the Clinton campaign and DNC’s actual e-mails is absurd.

Joshua Shultz

 

Good morning, I got a lot of stuff over my transom during five decades of reporting at very high levels, some false and some true. But unless I could verify the information, it never went to my editors. Do you know if the BuzzFeed’s information is true?

Dana Beyerle

 

I’ve been a subscriber–now member–for decades, but I’m now seriously considering abandoning my membership in light of CJR’s view that BuzzFeed was “right” to publish rank falsehoods (“lies” to use a word now favored by many journalists) at worst and wholly “unverified” facts at best. The publication was little more than an easily concocted, entirely unreported smear designed to attract attention, not enliven or inform public debate. Informed discussion happens when reports are grounded in demonstrated fact, not in figments. BuzzFeed published figments, and CJR approvingly calls that effort “journalism.” Shame on CJR.

Paul Kitzke

 

The worst that can be said about BuzzFeed is that they published made-up lies without any evidence to substantiate them. Granted, that used to be a pretty terrible thing to say about a news source, but not anymore —this is 2017! This is the Age of Trump.

In the Age of Trump, all news is #fakenews. Trump called out CNN itself as fake news today. The “mainstream media” is all fake. CNN is fake. Megyn Kelly? Fake. Anyone who dares oppose him? Fake, fake, fake, fake, fake.

And now this ridiculous story. What does the boy who cried wolf have left to say? “Fake,” he begs. And maybe this time, maybe once in awhile, something really is fake. But he’s spent so long breaking down the truth, worked so hard to undermine America’s ability to digest news critically, and done so much to erode the principles of fact and evidence that it just doesn’t matter anymore.

What matters is that this story is scandalous and viral, and you can spread it in fewer than a dozen one-syllable words.

They’re already calling Trump the PEEOTUS on Twitter. His weird obsession with gold was already weighing him down; this is only going to make those glamour shots of his bright yellow penthouse even more hilarious. Every time someone uses the phrase “trickle-down economics,” or in this wonderful internet age, “Watch Trump’s livestream,” people are going to chuckle under their breath.

We’re all going to start laughing at him. That’s a hard thing to achieve when we’re so afraid, but it’s also a very powerful weapon. Trump was many things, but he hadn’t actually become a true laughingstock. Now he’s a punchline. (Just don’t drink the punch.)

It’s stupid humor. It’s the humor of six-year-old schoolyard bullies. But how fitting it is that a man who has spent decades behaving like a six-year-old schoolyard bully should be on the receiving end of this particular, ahem, shower of attention.

People make up lies about presidents. They don’t often make up lies that are this perfectly in line with a President’s character, temperament, track record, and state of mind–a lie so perfectly pitched in the realm of the credible that we feel better calling it “unsubstantiated” than we do “preposterous.” Yet these rumors don’t get under presidential skin, and they don’t affect the presidency.

At least, they didn’t, back when the American public cared about facts, evidence, logic, and the value of expertise.

What would have been, at any other time, for any other president, a nothing non-scandal is now going to color (ha ha) Trump’s inauguration and stain (hee hee hee) his time in the office. He has no one to blame for that but himself. The American people have too much media savvy and common sense to be affected by this—except no, they don’t, because he’s made a two-year war on those qualities and stripped them away.

What’s left is one more fake story in a world where all stories are fake, and therefore none of them are. One more piece of bad journalism in a world where all journalism is bad. Trump has claimed every single piece of honest, even-handed reporting about him is a biased piece of bullshit penned by someone with a grudge to make him look bad. Now that he’s confronted with  real fake news, the news he’s dismissed as fake all along is starting to look a lot more credible by comparison.

This is the first, and only the first, of the thousand ways in which Trump’s own “Trumpiness” will catch up with him over the weeks and months to come. This is not even the beginning of the torrent of trouble he’s in for. It’s barely the opening squirt.

Luke Maynard

 

“But does a media that sits indefinitely on a potentially gigantic story inspire greater public trust? Hardly.” You’re right, which is why it should have been investigated, verified, and then published. I guess next time I have a story I’ll just submit my unedited notes as “unverified,” and let the public make their own decision.

Carla Steffanie

 

No, it wasn’t right. It is a form of unsubstantiated gossip that is harmful to the unity of America and the wellbeing of its people. Without verifiable facts, it becomes hearsay, and that is morally wrong and dangerous. That is irresponsible reporting. Most people in America do not trust the media anymore. That means most people in America do not even trust you as a scribe. The media continues to defy the moral values of God, and integrity is at a loss. Stupidity by reporters, biased political pundits, and the Hollywood agenda are shameful.

The political media movement today is mostly evil. As an example, most anchors and pundits reporting at CNN venture in the shadows of evil. No integrity. None.

Never ever report a story without facts. It is morally wrong and it does more harm than good, period.

Tony Diaz

 

Hypocrisy at work in the Trump camp. Trump and his followers had absolutely no reservations spewing misinformation about Clinton during the campaign, and against his opponents when he was campaigning for the GOP nomination. Moreover Trump and his supporters objected to any suggestions that such tactics were unethical. Now that Trump is on the receiving end, he expects the public to respect his point-of-view and heed his objections. The report in question exists. Yes, the contents remain, until verified, allegations. The BuzzFeed article made that clear. If nothing else, BuzzFeed is showing more respect for honesty than Trump has ever managed to muster.

Brien Holmes

 

Your point about lead generation is a good one. I only wish BuzzFeed made the point themselves. It would have been easy to tack their motivation onto the the lede, but they didn’t. In the end, I came away with a similar feeling as you, but was unable to arrive at that conclusion solely based on their article. In fact, their article made me angry at first.

These days I spend so much time trying to avoid sensationalized, high-promise nonsense–even when that nonsense is something like the dossier that I want to be true–with the BuzzFeed article, it felt like one got past me. It took me reconsidering BuzzFeed’s article in the context of CNN’s article to appreciate that what they did might have been OK. In other words, CNN’s greater journalistic effort helped legitimize BuzzFeed’s actions. Would it have been OK on its own? In defense of the publications that decided not to publish or report on the dossier, who can blame them? We are all trying to answer the question, “What is fake news?” and it’s a slippery one! The comparison to the HRC emails is unfair, I think, because the current emphasis is on doing journalism differently than it was done during the election. In my opinion, the conservative decisions of the big media reflect that caution. Whether we are consumers or creators, we are all trying to learn and regroup from the past few months of media madness.

Marie C. Collins

 

Good article, but you only get a B minus for missing the whole story.  

Joel Devcich

 

Shameful text that tries to defend what is indefensible.

Filip Rudić

 

Donald Trump is a media organization

Very insightful and thought provoking article. Quite ironic that media does not understand or know how to compete when someone invokes the media playbook against them.

Jerry Chomyn

University of Guelph-Humber

 

Folks, virtually all news stories–whether on NPR, CBS, etc.–say something like “President-elect Trump says…,” sometimes mentioning it was in a tweet. Surely, we all know that’s unacceptable.

Does everybody really believe Mr. Trump is actually sending all these tweets?! I think there’s a lot of reporting to do on who’s actually tweeting and does a tweet or text carry the weight of a statement from a known source?

I think this is simply bad basic journalism. Isn’t this worth some investigation?

Phelps S. Hawkins

Assistant Professor, JMC

Savannah State University

 

Loved it. Well done. Wish I’d written it.

Marc A. Ross

 

In the story of Trump, there is no story

This seems wrong on a variety of levels. Trump’s personal story as the child of inherited wealth and real estate is oft told and well known. His campaign narrative (“make America great again”) is succinct and clear. If journalists “don’t know what story to tell,” it’s likely that Trump’s inability to speak truthfully on nearly any subject has proved especially challenging. It also strikes me that the job of journalists is to confront lies and find truth, and I expect, one way or another, we will find the journalists capable of doing that with Trump. To say “there’s no story” is absurd.

Wesley Blount

 

I think that the problem is they don’t know how to fit Trump into their already formed narrative.

Laura Jean

 

You don’t deserve to be a journalist if you’re totally reliant on what he has to say to write a story about him.

Marlon Luistro

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.