Will Tweets Trump Traditional Media? A Look At Journalism's Future With The Donald

Nov 21, 2016

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump alternately embraced and bashed the media.  And many Trump followers criticized reporters, pushing Trump’s narrative that reporters were allied with Hillary Clinton, Democrats, and establishment Republicans.  

President-elect, Donald Trump.
Credit Flickr.com's Gage Skidmore

Adding to the haze was a torrent of fake news that was widely shared on social media, causing some people to believe Pope Francis actually endorsed Trump, or Ireland would take in American “Trump refugees”.

Now with President Trump taking over, many journalists wonder what kind of relationship they’ll have with him in the years ahead. 

I asked University of Oregon journalism professor Damian Radcliffe for his thoughts.   

Radcliffe:   “I think you can always expect a little bit of tension between politicians and the media.  And arguably, if there wasn’t a little bit of tension, perhaps the media would not be doing their job properly. I mean, you wouldn’t want necessarily too cozy a relationship.  It is important for the media to speak truth to power, to hold authority to account, and to be able to investigate and tell stories that are not necessarily the ones that politicians would want to have told. 

“But that’s really important in terms of our rights and responsibilities to create an informed citizenry.  That’s a key purpose of the media, to ask those questions, to provide analysis and context, and to insure that the information needs of communities are met.  I don’t think that those purposes are going to change, I think actually they’ve become even more important in this incredibly kind of complex age, where we have access to a myriad of different types of messages from all sides. And where it’s incredibly important for people to be able to make sense of those messages.”

Bull:  Moving into the Trump Administration, what do you think is going to change about the landscape as far as journalists go?  

U of O journalism professor, Damian Radcliffe.
Credit Brian Bull

Radcliffe: “Emotions are running very high on both sides, I don’t think that’s going to necessarily disappear or dampen anytime soon.  And we’re seeing a lot of questions being asked across the board, about what is role of the media in this day and age? What is the role of media literacy?  What are the roles of technology-led platforms, like Facebook and Google, who don’t think of themselves as media entities but are distributors of media content…that in those spaces, there is an element of equivalence that can sometimes be given to content coming from a variety of different sources. 

“And it’s really important for media consumers to be able to understand fact from fiction, or to be able to understand that there are varying viewpoints, and be equipped with the skills and knowledge, and critical thinking and appreciation abilities that enable them to come to their own decision in an informed way.”

Bull:  Is there any apprehension from your students or journalists in your circle as they move into this Trump Administration, about how their work and they themselves will be regarded?

Radcliffe: “It’s fair to say there is –again -- apprehension to some extent on both sides and we’ve seen discussions amongst our faculty and amongst our students, around well, “What does this mean for our profession?  Does our profession…is it under threat? Do we equally need to see this as potentially an opportunity to sorta revisit some of our primary purposes and principles, do we need to revisit those?”  Or do we perhaps need to do things differently?  A lot of discussion amongst ,many media commentators who feel that they’ve missed story here.  Which is that there are communities who felt very disenfranchised for a very long period of time, and who voted for change. 

“In some cases, they may have put aside some of their misgivings for a candidate, to vote for that kind of overwhelming change message, and arguably we’re not as plugged into those kind of communities and those community needs as perhaps we should be.

BULL:  This is KLCC’s Brian Bull. I’m speaking with Damian Radcliffe, about the role of journalism following Donald Trump’s surprising presidential win.

Radcliffe:  “The result was less of a surprise to me than some of my peers, but it’s pretty clear that across a number of mainstream media outlets, they really found the outcome very surprising. And I think that shows that perhaps there is a disconnect between certain constituencies and members of this country and some members of the media. 

"So this is an opportunity for us to revisit that, and say, how can we deepen that engagement?  How do we tell those stories that are perhaps not being told?  How do we get out of our own filter bubble?  And equally, how do we ensure that really important messages are communicated in a way to audiences across the country who’ve perhaps have lost faith in the traditional and mainstream media? And we need to find a way to sorta reaffirm that faith with them.”