News & Insights

“Dear journalists: Stop taking Trump literally”

“Dear journalists: Stop taking Trump literally”

(CNN)Just before the dawn of the Trump administration, journalism in Washington, DC, faces an existential crisis — but virtually no one in the profession is willing to diagnose it.

Brad Todd

Here it is: For the first time, words don’t matter.
In August, as a guest on MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily, I noted that voters take Donald Trump seriously but not literally, while journalists take him literally, but not seriously.
The rubric got traction on social media, became the headline of a widely read piece for The Atlantic by savvy columnist Salena Zito, and has been oft-repeated by other commentators, including tech pioneer and Trump backer Peter Thiel in a much-watched National Press Club address.
Months later and on the far side of the election, the press is still taking Trump more literally and less seriously than voters do. The most recent case in point is the furor over his baseless claim on Twitter about voter fraud, that “millions of people who voted illegally” cost him the popular vote. It’s the latest instance of the media buying into Trump’s outrage-tweeting strategy.
And journalists keep falling for it because they, like politicians, over-value words — and they are now covering a politician who does not. President-elect Trump still takes the same cavalier approach to verbal description as he would in hawking a condo tower that’s yet to be designed. And more than enough voters don’t seem to mind.
Trump has spent a career interacting with journalists, but as the first president never to serve in the military, the cabinet, or another public office before his election to the White House, he’s never been immersed in the word culture that drives political journalism…
Read more here: https://www.cnn.com/2016/11/28/opinions/journalists-stop-taking-trump-seriously-todd/index.html