Survey: Journalists say Trump making it hard to be objective

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Donald Trump at a political conference. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Foundation / Creative Commons)

Journalists are finding it harder to be objective in the current political climate, even though most agree that objectivity is a top obligation for reporters working in the industry today, according to the results of a survey published on Thursday.

An online poll of 520 journalists conducted by the marketing firms MuckRack and Zeno Group found that nearly half of those surveyed believed it was “not possible for a journalist to be 100 percent objective” in the current political and social climate. More than two-thirds of those surveyed blamed the current U.S. presidential administration for creating challenges for the news media and “eroding the media’s credibility with the American people,” which they say puts “journalism and journalists on the defensive.”

Over the last several years, Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked journalists and the news media industry largely due to what he considers to be unfavorable news coverage — first of his candidacy, then of his administration and works as president. Trump has referred to the news media as the “enemy of the people” and mocked reporters at campaign rallies; members of his administration have repeatedly barred reporters from meetings with officials, including this week when journalists from CNN, the Associated Press and other outlets were prevented from attending a meeting held by the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to Leslie Stahl, a correspondent with the CBS news magazine program 60 Minutes, Trump admitted to her that he regularly stokes the anti-media flames in an attempt to “discredit and demean” the news industry so that “no one will believe” negative reports about him.

But while individual journalists may feel some heartburn from this current president, there’s no doubt that his term has been good for the industry overall. Tweets, soundbytes and photo opportunities have provided great fodder for television and social media (the same MuckRack-Zeno survey said more than four out of 10 journalists surveyed consider the potential “shareability” of a news story on social media when they’re considering what to cover). That fodder has caused ratings and subscription numbers to rise sharply since Trump’s election night victory two years ago: The New York Times recently reported $1 billion in revenue and overall television news viewership is up.

At least one news executive predicted this long before Trump clinched the presidency. At a media conference in 2016, CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves famously quipped that Trump “might not be good for America, but (he’s) damn good for CBS,” adding that the money Trump’s political campaign brought in from advertisements was unexpected but welcomed at the Tiffany Network.

“Who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now?” Trump said. “The money’s rolling in and this is fun. I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”

Moonves later said his comments were a joke.