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Media Playing Up The 'Opposition' Role Is Risky

Feb 3, 2017

This is not breaking news. President Donald Trump hates the news media.

Even his top aides are keeping the heat on. Advisor Kellyanne Conway is suggesting that media organizations start firing some journalists for what she calls dishonest and embarrassing work.

That constant bashing, however, is translating into higher TV ratings, increased subscriptions for newspapers and for some outlets, an opportunity to promote their work.

The non-profit investigative news organization ProPublica is even selling T-shirts – yes T-shirts – inscribed with the phrase “We’re not shutting up.” It’s a nod to the not-so-kind advice a senior presidential advisor Steve Bannon issued recently to the press corps.

Credit ProPublica and Cotton Bureau

Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies said she has a few reservations about how some journalists are embracing how Bannon, Trump and others are treating the media as an opposition party.

If they just step into that role without questioning it, “it may become a self- fulfilling prophecy,” she said.

The media doesn’t have to buy into the extremes of the two major narratives that seem to be taking place: that President Trump is a rogue leader taking aim at the Constitution, or that he’s a legitimately-elected leader doing exactly what he said he would do while he was a candidate.

“There’s room for the media on both sides to move into the middle of that divide. For example, the media should give Trump credit for his consistency,” McBride said. “And they should level the tone whenever possible, like this week with the Supreme Court nomination announcement. They went very normal.”

On the other side, the news media need to recognize that Trump’s unorthodoxy is going to be “significantly disruptive to the way government works and the way government interacts with the public,” she said.