Are news organizations finally catching up to Trump’s antics?

NPR recently announced they were changing how their reporters cover former President Trump. Why aren’t other news outlets following suit?

Former President Donald Trump arrives at court, Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in New York.

Former President Donald Trump arrives at court, Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in New York.

When Donald Trump rode the escalator down into our daily lives to announce he was running for president, he fundamentally changed political journalism.

For traditional reporters and news outlets, Trump’s penchant for exaggeration, fabrication, and outright lies immediately made him difficult to cover. How do you effectively report on someone who does not have a capacity for shame?

With Trump charged with fraud amidst a third run for president, NPR is among those organizations re-examining political coverage in the post-Trump era.

“I think it’s fair to say there have been mistakes and there have been missteps,” says NPR vice president and executive editor Terry Samuel.

“I think they mostly fall into the category of us (NPR) doing things the way they have always been done and not recognizing how different candidate President Trump — now, former President Trump — was on the political stage and how he essentially transformed our politics into something different.”

“I think it’s fair to say there have been mistakes and there have been missteps.” — Terry Samuel, NPR

Among those applauding the change in direction for NPR is NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen.

“He didn’t follow any of the rules of the presidency or for running for president, and what sociologists called the informal norms of American democracy were being shattered.”

With Trump fighting off an indictment and potentially more legal trouble on the way, there’s no reason for Trump to alter his playbook. Rosen posits that will lead Trump to be even more outrageous. And yet…

“I don’t see any revision in the approach to covering presidential politics or elections,” Rosen says. “Even though it’s known that’s what Trump is going to probably do.”

Even if some big news organizations are hesitant to change, there are things that outlets can do.

“I think they have to rededicate themselves to truth and not allow themselves to be used to spread falsehood,” Rosen says. “They have to be willing to challenge themselves but also challenge anti-democratic actions of all types, which requires even the smallest news organizations to the largest to become more pro-democracy than they have been.”

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  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.