The President vs. the Media

 

If the mainstream media’s relationship to President Barack Obama began as a slobbering love affair, some reporters eventually realized that the relationship had always been one-sided. The press corps may have fallen in love with Obama at first sight, but the president was never really that into them. The most transparent administration in history turned out to be merciless when it came to leaks, substantive interactions were nixed in favor of superficial pressers, and the president was more than happy to bypass the press corps in favor of carefully managed social media when it suited him (as it often did). Don’t take my word for it: This 2015 piece in the Columbia Journalism Review catalogues the pattern admirably.

President Donald Trump’s relationship with the press promises to be, shall we say, different: “Mutual abuse for each other’s benefit” seems about right, though — and this is important — the press keeps getting rolled. Witness the kerfuffle this weekend over the crowd size at the inauguration:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jlnhqvp9uJ4

A few observations:

  1. This is among the least substantive issues I can imagine. The size of the crowds at the inaugurations is not and never was important.
  2. I’m not claiming to be any expert on this, but it sure looks like the crowd at Obama’s inauguration was bigger than the one at Trump’s, and it stands to reason that it would have been (first black president taking the oath of office in a majority black city, etc). Regardless, Spicer is transparently trying to have it both ways: i.e, claiming that the lack of any official count means it’s impossible for the press to make responsible claims, while insisting that Trump’s inauguration was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe.”
  3. The media thinks this is gold. To take the obvious example, the New York Times has at least three pieces dedicated to the subject (here, here, and here), as well as a fourth that compares the inauguration crowd to those at anti-Trump protests.

If the press cares either for its reputation or serving the public, it needs to smarten up, and quickly. Dedicating this many resources to catching the administration in a blatant-but-meaningless falsehood is a waste of time and resources. Focus on the real stuff — the good and the bad — and don’t run down every rabbit hole the administration presents to you. Sean Spicer clearly didn’t put a lot of time or energy on this. Why should you?

As for the administration, I would suggest that it ain’t always going to be this easy. Other people will eventually get wise as to how this works and it’ll make you sloppy when you need to keep your skills sharp.

There are 93 comments.

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  1. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    The key for Mr Spicer was to abuse them.  Think of it as beginning a long lock up and some guys come over and start to mess with you.  Your options are to be their prison girlfriend or punch them in the face and put the shoes to their quivering torsos.

    I thought it was a petty topic to discuss when Obama obviously had a throng of swooners present 8 years ago but then I realized that Mr Spicer just bullied them.  If the media wants to lie their way through these four years, as they are wont to do, then they will be Rick Rolled to our endless schadenfreude.

    • #1
  2. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    They are psychologically incapable of taking your advice.  The lesson they took from the election is not that much of the public distrusts the press because of their blatant political bias, but that they let down their side by not being tough enough on Trump.  They now see their mission as opposing every single thought, policy, gesture, statement by the Administration.  The already tiny amount of balanced analysis we occasionally saw is now completely gone.

    • #2
  3. blood thirsty neocon Inactive
    blood thirsty neocon
    @bloodthirstyneocon

    Sun Tzu say:  “If your enemy is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak that he may grow arrogant.”

    • #3
  4. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    So if the Trump administration is going to lie so blatantly about something so trivial how will they behave when it matters. That seems to be the point of most of the coverage of this non-issue.

    • #4
  5. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    The report I saw (I’m afraid it was Google News) said that going by TV viewership it had the 5th largest audience since they began tracking it. The top four — the ones who had more viewers than Trump — included Reagan in ’81 (at the very top), Obama in ’09 (obviously a significant cultural event) — and then Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.

    So the number of people watching your inauguration is a remarkably poor predictor of how successful or popular a president will prove to be, and President Trump should stop letting it get under his skin. He doesn’t have to top every statistical measure ever.

    I agree the media’s handling much of this badly, but if the president’s spokesman is blatantly lying that strikes me as news even if it’s a fairly trivial detail. And maybe even the president thinks so. It’s the New York Times, and the sources are anonymous people “familiar with the president’s thinking,” but we’ll know it’s likely accurate if we see Spicer toned down a little next time.

    • #5
  6. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):
    So if the Trump administration is going to lie so blatantly about something so trivial how will they behave when it matters. That seems to be the point of most of the coverage of this non-issue.

    From my perspective, the administration is factually wrong and this is a stupid argument to engage in.  Objectively, I have to admit, this approach has worked for them politically.

    I think you have the issue backwards.  I anticipate every administration will lie about some things, including petty matters.  What is different here is that from the press perspective it simply does not matter whether it’s true, false or a matter of legitimate factual or policy dispute or simply a matter of judgement.  No matter what the administration does, it will be attacked.  We’re on our own to sort it out.  The press will be of no help.

    • #6
  7. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    I can’t wait for the day when this sort of toddler squabbling ceases. FFS, don’t make me pull this car over and give you something to cry about.

    • #7
  8. Carol Member
    Carol
    @

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):
    So if the Trump administration is going to lie so blatantly about something so trivial how will they behave when it matters. That seems to be the point of most of the coverage of this non-issue.

    I see your point. The Obama administration only lied about the important things.

    • #8
  9. Theodoric of Freiberg Member
    Theodoric of Freiberg
    @TheodoricofFreiberg

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: If the press cares either for its reputation or serving the public, it needs to smarten up, and quickly.

    Surely you’re joking, Mr. Meyer. The “press” does not serve the public. It serves its own leftist interests.

    • #9
  10. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: I’m not claiming to be any expert on this, but it sure looks like the crowd at Obama’s inauguration was bigger than the one at Trump’s, and it stands to reason that it would have been (first black president taking the oath of office in a majority black city, etc).

    It is important for members of the press, the commentariat, and the public in general to make the effort to understand and use the English language with precision and accuracy. The press secretary stated that more people had used the Metro than for “President Obama’s last inaugural” [emphasis added]. Mr. Meyer’s comment seems to be attempting to refute the claim by making reference to Mr. Obama’s first inaugural. While it may well be true that more people attended Mr. Obama’s first inaugural, that is not relevant to any claim made or implied by the press secretary.

    Facts and details matter; sloppiness neither serves the cause of truth nor does it enhance the reputation of the writer.

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Dedicating this many resources to catching the administration in a blatant-but-meaningless falsehood is a waste of time and resources.

    Hmm… who has been caught in a falsehood?

    • #10
  11. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    I have no way of knowing what is true, but its more likely than not that the media is the one lying.  Don’t care enough to find out more.

    • #11
  12. EugeneKriegsmann Member
    EugeneKriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):
    So if the Trump administration is going to lie so blatantly about something so trivial how will they behave when it matters. That seems to be the point of most of the coverage of this non-issue.

    I find it a sad commentary on where I politics have arrived when the manner in which the new administration deals with the lies and biases of the press is by telling bigger lies. To a large extent this was Trump’s approach to his opponents throughout the campaign. It is disappointing, but unsurprising that this is how his administration plans to deal with its perceived enemies. Spicer struck me more as a lackey to a third world dictator than a serious press secretary. Haven’t we had enough of that garbage in the last 8 years?

    • #12
  13. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Eugene Kriegsmann (View Comment):
    Spicer struck me more as a lackey to a third world dictator than a serious press secretary

    Can you be more specific on which third world dictator’s press secretary you are referring to? There are so many, it is hard to understand your beliefs here.

    • #13
  14. Trinity Waters Inactive
    Trinity Waters
    @TrinityWaters

    I can’t imagine how this has devolved so quickly into questioning the veracity of crowd size reportage.  This is so simple!  This was an instant counter punch to the media who have always set the tone.  They suck and will continue to be exposed.  Have you seen CNN’s gigapixel image made during Trump’s speech?  Study it.

    Every time something slanted, untrue or biased hits this administration, they will punch back.  Good for them!  This is 180 degrees opposite to what W did, the poor sap.  Also, Reince hit back quickly at Brennan’s appalling comment about Trump’s visit to the CIA yesterday.  Every attack will be met with a counter punch and stiff resistance!  I’ll bet Reince has a duty roster for each weekend listing who will do the punching and when.  Yippee!

    I can almost see the grim satisfaction on the faces of those here who are attempting to turn this into episode 1, of many to come: stay tuned, of the Gotcha Trump! series.  Neilson ratings are sure to soar here on Ricochet.

    HDAHA

    • #14
  15. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    The poor excuse that soils my driveway each day brought me two articles about the inauguration attendance, one from the Associated Press and one from the USA Today network.  They managed to include the pictures, but they also managed to give me some useful information.

    The Capitol Park Police had taped off sections of the Mall as keep-out zones at the request of groundskeepers who are trying to get the turf to recover before this year’s tourist season.  The same thing was true for Obama’s second inauguration, but different areas were marked off.  Having big empty spaces on the Capitol Mall lawn gives a very incomplete impression of the crowd when you are just looking at pictures.

    • #15
  16. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Ex-President Obama’s 3 press secretaries were some of the most revolting creatures in history.  Professional liars and, other than Gibbs, idiots.

    • #16
  17. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: As for the administration, I would suggest that it ain’t always going to be this easy. Other people will eventually get wise as to how this works and it’ll make you sloppy when you need to keep your skills sharp.

    What is the last lesson the Left learned? I can’t recall an example. They’re not dumb, but they might as well be with ideological blinders so thick.

    If the Trump administration wants to roll over the press and Democrats, the strategy is simple. It’s just a matter of timing. Always have at hand a statement, executive order, legislative proposal, or appointment the Left will find outrageous (not a high bar) and release them on a weekly basis. In their hysteria, the Left will undermine their own objections by burying them with fresh complaints. The last story will always get more attention than the big story.

    • #17
  18. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    I predict that Leftist mass media will be much less interested in the size of the crowd that participates in the March for Life.

    This has been an ongoing media scandal for decades.  They would routinely report the attendance as “tens of thousands of people,” when actual attendance numbers were over 300,000 or 400,000 every year.  About ten years ago pro-Life activists started ridiculing the journalists for violating their own ethics of journalism over the issue.   A little bit of improvement was seen as a result, but not much, and chiefly only in odd-numbered years.

    • #18
  19. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    The National Park Service used to publish official crowd size estimates.  After they caught so much grief when they correctly reported that Louis Farrakhan’s Million-Man March had approximately 400,000 participants, they quit publishing crowd sizes.

    • #19
  20. Did I Make 6 Comments or Only 5 Inactive
    Did I Make 6 Comments or Only 5
    @Pseudodionysius
    1. This is among the least substantive issues I can imagine. The size of the crowds at the inaugurations is not and never was important.

    To the left, its always about deligitimizing him – Popular Vote, Inauguration crowd size, Half A Million Shrill Harpees March — its a daily drip, drip, drip, of “Not My President” “Pussy Riot” “Madonna Told Me Papa Trump Can’t Preach” “Mrs. Smith Divorced Mr. Smith” etc etc etc

    • #20
  21. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    This whole issue of crowd size is just fake news, and should be dismissed as such.

     

    • #21
  22. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    The Main Stream Media has never focused on the “real stuff”, unless the real stuff was how many genders can you fit into a bathroom, or bashing Israel on how horrible they are for building on their own land or defending themselves. Real stuff they passed on covering, like Christian pleas for help across the Middle East as they are being massacred, careful not to use bad words like Islamic Extremism, ignoring the millions who can no longer afford their healthcare policies – no – can’t say that, or school kids who now take 10 minutes to add a column of numbers or need a calculator under Common Core and don’t know American history, or even bother to write about the rampant heroin abuse, or the consequences of a marijuana puffing society, or the vigilante shootings of our law enforcement……..

    Unless they can focus again on real stuff, they’ll be out of work soon, while the new journalists will be the fresh kids on the block with camera and mike in hand, covering the real world, not the rainbow colored one where there are no consequences to one’s actions and life is just one big selfie.

    • #22
  23. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    drlorentz (View Comment):
    While it may well be true that more people attended Mr. Obama’s first inaugural, that is not relevant to any claim made or implied by the press secretary.

    Of course it is.  The press secretary said that there had never been a more watched inauguration ever than Mr. Trump’s.   That includes all inaugurations before Trump’s. And I don’t give a fiddler’s fart how many people went to Trump’s inauguration.  He won.  He’s the president.  That’s what matters.  The protesters in the streets made me feel, actually, some sense of enthusiasm for him.

    But to have a press secretary argue this point of numbers, which seems a pure vanity thing anyway, is not a win for Mr. Trump unless you are an ardent supporter of his already and just want him to take issue with every little thing the media says.  (What’s brilliant about taking bait?  People think Trump jumping on all the stupid things the media highlights isn’t a problem?  It’s the same thing as them hopping on him!)

    It seems to me much more important at this point to start building some sense of trust with everyone else who did not vote for President Trump.

    I’m willing to give the dude a chance, but I’m not willing to go, “Oh, yeah.  That ardent lying about nothing thing is an awesome strategy.”  It puts me back into a skeptical place.  How’s that good?

    • #23
  24. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
     

    It seems to me much more important at this point to start building some sense of trust with everyone else who did not vote for President Trump.

    A black guy will never get the Klan’s support.  No point in bothering.

    • #24
  25. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: As for the administration, I would suggest that it ain’t always going to be this easy. Other people will eventually get wise as to how this works and it’ll make you sloppy when you need to keep your skills sharp.

    I agree. I watched the press conference, and all I could think of was the term from sports “unforced error,” which I think means a mistake that didn’t have to be made.

    Maybe Trump needs to actually appoint someone to stand between him and the press secretary so that the press secretary won’t pick up and run with Trump’s idle rantings.

    I’m watching The West Wing, and it is fascinating to see how the White House works. Trump needs to look at himself realistically and figure out a good way to ameliorate the effects of his shortcomings. We need someone with a winning personality, like The West Wing‘s CJ. :)

    • #25
  26. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Calling them out on this was the right move in that it sets a tone. It says that starting right here, right now, your tawdry and dishonest skewing of  the news will be outed each and every time you try it. I applauded Spicer’s words, but wish he hadn’t kept glancing down at his notes so often. I’m betting he’ll be a great press secretary.

    • #26
  27. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    The King Prawn (View Comment):
    I can’t wait for the day when this sort of toddler squabbling ceases. FFS, don’t make me pull this car over and give you something to cry about.

    I had to re-read to comprehend your FFS acronym. Then I peed my pants laughing.

    My mom never said that part.

    But when addressing a nation of supposed grown-ups, sometimes ramping it up is required.

     

    • #27
  28. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    drlorentz (View Comment):

    While it may well be true that more people attended Mr. Obama’s first inaugural, that is not relevant to any claim made or implied by the press secretary.

    Of course it is. The press secretary said that there had never been a more watched inauguration ever than Mr. Trump’s. That includes all inaugurations before Trump’s.

    This comment perfectly illustrates my previous point about precision in language. Distinguish between watched and attended. I was addressing Mr. Meyer’s critique about attendance at the inauguration. The press secretary’s other remarks about how many people watched the inauguration refer to all media worldwide: “This was the largest audience to witness an inauguration period, both in person and around the globe.” While the press secretary provided no citation for this claim, it is plausible given that streaming and broadcast media reach more people than ever before.

    View the video again, paying close attention to what was actually said. Only then return with factual evidence that contradicts statements made by the press secretary.

    • #28
  29. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    MarciN (View Comment):
    I’m watching The West Wing, and it is fascinating to see how the White House works. Trump needs to look at himself realistically and figure out a good way to ameliorate the effects of his shortcomings. We need someone with a winning personality, like The West Wing‘s CJ.

    Mr. Spicer strikes me as a poor choice for the job. He’s not that articulate and comes off as a bit of a ranter. I agree that a person more like CJ would work better. Makes me think of Dana Perino.

    • #29
  30. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    drlorentz (View Comment):
    The press secretary stated that more people had used the Metro than for “President Obama’s last inaugural” [emphasis added].

    The media took the bait, and Spicer is the bad guy?

    And if you are talking about “audience size” these days you don’t have to be there to be in the audience.

    I did not watch or attend either first or second Obama inaugural, but did watch the Trump inaugural on my phone airplay to my TV.

    But surely I, and others who did the same don’t count as part of the audience.

    On the other hand, this argument is all so high school.

     

    • #30

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