Credit where credit’s due?
The 2016 election cycle and subsequent presidential coverage made painfully clear the disconnect between the political media and the rest of the real world.
East Coast and particularly Beltway elites could not wrap their heads around Trump’s win and for good reason — they do not experience or live in the same world as the country that elected Trump president. As they’ve learned, the world does not revolve around D.C. or Manhattan.
Which explains why Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler sent a very public memo to staffers (no accident there) reminding them what journalism is and how it ought to be conducted.
Among the tips and instructions was the suggestion that reporters, “Get out into the country and learn more about how people live, what they think, what helps and hurts them, and how the government and its actions appear to them, not to us.”
Adler explores the role of journalism in Trump’s America as though the country is in uncharted territory, never having seen a swing from one party to another or civil unrest:
The first 12 days of the Trump presidency (yes, that’s all it’s been!) have been memorable for all – and especially challenging for us in the news business. It’s not every day that a U.S. president calls journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth” or that his chief strategist dubs the media “the opposition party.” It’s hardly surprising that the air is thick with questions and theories about how to cover the new Administration.
So what is the Reuters answer? To oppose the administration? To appease it? To boycott its briefings? To use our platform to rally support for the media? All these ideas are out there, and they may be right for some news operations, but they don’t make sense for Reuters. We already know what to do because we do it every day, and we do it all over the world.
And then there are the “Do’s”:
We don’t know yet how sharp the Trump administration’s attacks will be over time or to what extent those attacks will be accompanied by legal restrictions on our news-gathering. But we do know that we must follow the same rules that govern our work anywhere, namely:
–Cover what matters in people’s lives and provide them the facts they need to make better decisions.
–Become ever-more resourceful: If one door to information closes, open another one.
–Give up on hand-outs and worry less about official access. They were never all that valuable anyway. Our coverage of Iran has been outstanding, and we have virtually no official access. What we have are sources.
–Get out into the country and learn more about how people live, what they think, what helps and hurts them, and how the government and its actions appear to them, not to us.
–Keep the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles close at hand, remembering that “the integrity, independence and freedom from bias of Reuters shall at all times be fully preserved.”
–Never be intimidated, but:
–Don’t pick unnecessary fights or make the story about us. We may care about the inside baseball but the public generally doesn’t and might not be on our side even if it did.
–Don’t vent publicly about what might be understandable day-to-day frustration. In countless other countries, we keep our own counsel so we can do our reporting without being suspected of personal animus. We need to do that in the U.S., too.
–Don’t take too dark a view of the reporting environment: It’s an opportunity for us to practice the skills we’ve learned in much tougher places around the world and to lead by example – and therefore to provide the freshest, most useful, and most illuminating information and insight of any news organization anywhere.
That this needs to be said is nothing short of sad. But credit where credit’s due, I suppose.
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