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A Testy Week Between Trump And The Media

Jan 15, 2017
Originally published on January 15, 2017 9:47 am
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

This past week, a lot of the news was about the news media.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: BuzzFeed, which is a failing pile of garbage...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SEAN SPICER: Is a sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you give us a question?

TRUMP: Don't be - no, I'm not going to give you a - I'm not going to give you a question.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Despite all the developments having to do with Russian hacking and Cabinet nominations, a lot of the media coverage focused on Trump's interaction with reporters. We spoke to our media correspondent, David Folkenflik, about the president-elect's attacks on the press.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: He's turning any story that is inconvenient or highly critical or subjects him to unwelcome scrutiny as a fake story. He used the phrase fake news, which has been in vogue, to talk about what are effectively hoaxes, ungrounded in fact and unsubstantiated. And it is true that the allegations raised in this dossier that was obtained by the intelligence chiefs relied on a lot of unverified information, but that - ones that they took seriously and from a source that intelligence officials took seriously enough that they did, in fact, truly brief President Obama and Donald Trump about them.

So, you know, Trump is saying the fact that you guys are reporting even on these briefings is fake news, CNN. And I reject you. And you're not legitimate. And that use of that rhetoric, that inversion, is very effective in sort of throwing reporters off guard.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I want you to deconstruct a little bit this inversion, as you call it. When President-elect Donald Trump uses words like fake news and turns the meaning around, what does that say to you?

FOLKENFLIK: The first thing is that it's a way in which you can rob the media of whatever standing it has left to raise questions about the leaders of government and to present themselves as honest brokers to the public and the audiences they seek to both inform and represent. Additionally, Trump comes from the arena of reality television, of tabloid New York culture, and conflict is a key element. It's entertaining and it's diverting.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you're suggesting he's better equipped at this than possibly we in the media are.

FOLKENFLIK: Oh, I think he's much better equipped at it than folks in what we think of as the responsible mainstream media. Absolutely. I think there are a lot of reporters that say, my goodness, BuzzFeed is going to be yet again on a blacklist in terms of being allowed to report on the Trump entourage and as it'll become the White House. And so a lot of people, I think, are concerned about being shut out.

I think reporters should be more concerned about subjecting the Trump administration to thorough inquiry, not being thrown off their game, not being thrown off tough questions that need answers - regardless of how willing Trump and his circle prove to be to answer them - and to worry a lot less about access, and to worry a lot less about whether or not he calls on you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We saw in the fallout of this press conference some solidarity, but a lot of infighting in the media. What should the media be doing going forward?

FOLKENFLIK: Sure. I mean, you saw people like Shep Smith of Fox News stand up for Jim Acosta and for CNN. You know, FOX News, not always one that shines a warm light on its competitors, usually going after them. Shep Smith said, these guys are doing journalistic function. They're doing their jobs. They shouldn't be attacked for that. And that's the kind of support that I think over time matters. When Fox was being attacked, Jake Tapper, then with ABC, told Obama administration officials they shouldn't be going after reporters, you know, and shutting them out simply 'cause they didn't like the kind of coverage they were receiving.

That kind of standing up in a public way to support fellow journalists, competitors I think does make a difference. But I think they also need to ensure that the questions that underlie some of the coverage that really have earned the irritation and anger of Trump and his aides, those questions can't be set aside. It can't - we can't only cover the conflict. We have to cover the meat beneath it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: David Folkenflik. He's NPR's media correspondent. We are going to need to hear more from you, I think, over the next weeks and months.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, happy to do it any time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.