How Should the Media Cover Trump?

From The Poynter Report with Tom Jones:

Donald Trump supposedly will have a “special announcement” today — and the buzz is he will announce he is running for president in 2024. Some in the Republican party want him to delay his announcement, and some are hoping he never announces it.

With Trump, nothing is a given. For all we know, his special announcement is that he will have a special announcement next week, or next month, or next year.

But let’s assume that Trump does announce he will run for president in 2024.

What does this mean for the media? Vanity Fair’s Charlotte Klein has a smart piece: “‘There’s always a risk of him being trolled’: A Donald Trump 2024 bid will test if the media’s learned anything since 2016.”

Klein talks with journalists to see how they might cover another Trump run for president.

Philip Rucker, the deputy national editor for The Washington Post, told Klein, “Our guiding principle about covering Trump is that we’re gonna cover a Trump campaign the same way we’d cover every other presidential campaign, which is seriously, rigorously, comprehensively. We’re gonna let our coverage of this campaign be guided by our reporting, not by any assumptions or preconceived notions about outcomes.”

I don’t want to give away too much of Klein’s story. But I did like this quote from an unnamed reporter at a major news organization: “‘Trump speaks at a rally’ is no longer a story. There’s less interest in chronicling his every thought and private utterance and more interest in how he is shaping the country.”

One can’t deny or ignore Trump’s influence. He would immediately become the favorite to be the Republican nominee in 2024. Or, at the very least, one of the strongest contenders. A sizable chunk of the country still are devoted to the former president, and what he does is news.

Some will argue that lies about the 2020 election or the Jan. 6 insurrection or taking documents from the White House that he wasn’t supposed to is not news and should not be amplified. Neither should other false claims and baseless allegations. I would argue that we’ve long passed the point of giving Trump’s false allegations about the 2020 election any air at all.

But, an argument can also be made that Americans should know what Trump is saying, even the dangerous rhetoric. Consider that, based on midterm election results, many voters rejected Trump’s thoughts and many of the candidates that he endorsed. Instead of looking at it as giving oxygen to his rants, it’s more like shining a light on his thinking — even if it’s alarming, especially if it’s alarming.

Amplifying everything Trump says is irresponsible, but so is ignoring everything he says. A fine line must be walked, and once again, the media will be put to the test by Donald Trump.

One last note on Trump’s possible announcement. Today’s “The Daily” podcast from The New York Times features a conversation about Trump with Times’ reporter Maggie Haberman.

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