The Challenges of Covering Trump

It’s day four of the Republican National Convention. You have been sending in comments and concerns about CBC News coverage. My response to those will, as usual, be confined to the reviews. I did come across this interesting analysis of the journalistic challenge and response to the candidacy and style of the Trump campaign, published on the Columbia Journalism Review website: For journalists covering Trump, a Murrow moment.

Edward R. Murrow was a legendary American reporter, who first became well known through his live CBS radio broadcasts from London during the blitz. He was also known for his highly critical “See it Now” television broadcast about U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy. David Mindich, the author of the CJR piece sees a parallel with contemporary coverage of Trump:

AS EDWARD R. MURROW wrapped up his now-famous special report condemning Joseph McCarthy in 1954, he looked into the camera and said words that could apply today. “He didn’t create this situation of fear -- he merely exploited it, and rather successfully,” Murrow said of McCarthy. Most of Murrow’s argument relied on McCarthy’s own words, but in the end Murrow shed his journalistic detachment to offer a prescription: “This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent—or for those who approve,” he said. “We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.”

After months of holding back, modern-day journalists are acting a lot like Murrow, pushing explicitly against Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. To be sure, these modern-day Murrow moments carry less impact: Long gone are the days in which a vast majority of eyeballs were tuned to the big-three television news programs. But we nonetheless are witnessing a change from existing practice of steadfast detachment, and the context in which journalists are reacting is not unlike that of Murrow: The candidate’s comments fall outside acceptable societal norms, and critical journalists are not alone in speaking up.

He goes on to analyze what conditions are contributing to this shift in journalistic norms. It’s a good read.