To hear the words politics and news immediately makes me and hundreds of thousands of people across the globe think of Donald Trump. Depending on a person’s background and overall socialization, the name Trump can reign synonymous with Hitler or savior. The debates and arguments that ensue are seemingly endless and give us little hope for resolve. However, with an educated public that understands the role of journalism and the importance of different perspectives, we can deduce that the hope for unity is more attainable than what is portrayed. A way in which we can help educate ourselves when reading news articles is by evaluating the agenda that has been set, the sources used (or agenda building), and the frame or tone in which the article is written. While keeping these ideals in mind I decided to evaluate five articles from a legacy news organization, The New York Times, and pose a simple and relevant question: Is the New York Times being fair to Donald Trump in their reporting?
To begin lets start with agenda setting. The word agenda is typically seen as a negative term – “What is their agenda?” someone might ask. However, in this context, agenda setting is referring more to what is being talked about. Across the board, Donald Trump remains prevalent in nearly every news category in the Times. His every move is being inspected, critiqued, and questioned. Rightfully so with the wave of controversy in which his campaign, and now presidency, has been riding on. Within the last month the setting of media outlets agenda has shifted from questioning why he won and Clinton lost, to berating the ideas he is proposing and the executive orders he has implemented. Like other big-name news outlets, the New York Times is taking on the watchdog role of journalism and digging their claws in deep hoping to hear even a squeal of truth in their investigations.
Within the world of journalism agenda building is referring to the sources being used and how they are used. To explain and show you the work that journalists go through to retrieve their information I dug through the hyperlinks and references to give you a simple summary of each article.
Investigative reporter, Megan Twohey, and reporter of the Washington bureau of the New York Times, Scott Shane, co-wrote the article A Back-Channel Plan for Ukraine and Russia, Courtesy of Trump Associates, which investigates the possible ties that are linked between Donald Trump and Russia. The sources used throughout the article reference quotes from the president’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen and business associate Felix H. Sater. Scott Shane, having years of experience in following the intelligence and security beat for the New York Times, also unveiled even more information concerning an unverified dossier amassed by a British intelligence agent. These documents claim to expose that Mr. Cohen had met with Russian representatives. Within this article there are hyperlinks that lead to previous stories that Megan Twohey and Scott Shane have written concerning the President and his controversial circle.
Chief White House correspondent for the New York Times, Peter Baker, wrote about Trump’s recent rally in Florida with an article titled Trump Returns to the Campaign Trail after a Month in Office. Mr. Baker, having covered Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barrack Obama, and now Donald J. Trump, was able to write a short and concise article covering President Trump’s rally. Most of Baker’s sources were quotes straight from Trump himself. However, Mr. Baker also noted local police officers who estimated there being about 9,000 people at this rally. Lastly he cites the “super fan” that Trump called onto stage, Gene Huber, who ecstatically praised Trump stating, “Everything he says, I know he’s going to do.”
Three political reporters from the Times, Nicholas Confessore, Maggie Haberman, and Eric Lipton put together a lengthy article titled, Trump’s ‘Winter White House’: A Peek at the Exclusive Members’ List at Mar-a-Lago. At first glance this doesn’t look like much of a news article as it does a gossip column, but after reading it I understand why this is considered to be a news story. Donald Trump has owned Mar-a-Lago, private resort in Palm Beach, Florida for many years, and since his election he has retreated to this resort three times since he has taken office. It’s being referred to as the “Winter White House”. That’s not all that odd considering many presidents before him have had mansions and weekend get-a-away haunts for the rich. What the writers remark as alarming are the members of this exclusive resort and how much these members are able to bend the ear of the President. The article cites the New York Public Radio, The Center for Public Integrity, Twitter, Augusta’s Master’s Tournament website, and the press release written by a handful of senators to Donald Trump requesting he release the names of those who have access to the Mar-a-Lago estate.
To swim even deeper into this murky affair, national and foreign correspondent, Frances Robles wrote an article for the Times, published a day after Confessore, Haberman, and Lipton’s piece, titled Mar-a-Lago Neighbors Discover Costs of Trump’s Visits. As the title gives away, Robles looked into how the community near Mar-a-Lago was being affected by Trump’s frequent visits. For some local businesses it means free advertisement, and for others, due to how strict security is, his visits have a negative impact on the community. Crucial roads for the public’s transportation and locals are being blocked. Private jets aren’t able to fly in or out of the airport located nine miles from Mar-a-Lago. Plus to meet the demands of the secret service, the local police department is paying $60,000 a day in overtime for their sheriff’s deputies. To gather all of this information Frances Robles interviewed the business owners, police department officials, and the Palm Beach public safety director. She also made an effort to contact the Secret Service to comment on this issue, but they did not reply.
Lastly, International editor in the London office of the New York Times, Sewell Chan, wrote about Donald Trump’s random and completely false remarks concerning Sweden in an article titled ‘Last Night in Sweden’? Trump’s Remark Baffles a Nation. The first thing you notice in this (online) article is the video that is posted at the beginning. You’re able to watch and hear President Trump say, “You look at what’s happening. We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, would you believe it?” In a campaign-style rally in Florida, Trump is suggesting that a terror attack occurred over the weekend in Sweden. The internet nearly exploded, and so much so, as Chan cites, a former prime minister, Carl Bildt went to Twitter to say, “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound.” Sewell Chan noted that the context in which he was mentioning Sweden in the same breath as Germany and the terrorist attacks made it sound as if Donald Trump thought an attack had occurred in Sweden as well. Chan goes on to cite the Swedish newspapers Aftonbladet and Dagens Nyheter, a White House spokeswoman, a political scientist and deputy director of the Swedish Institute, Breitbart News, leader of the opposition Moderate Party, and Donald Trump himself from, of course, Twitter.
After reading and analyzing each article, reading the bio of each writer, and clicking on every link cited in the articles it’s easy for me to say that at this moment Donald Trump has control of the media agenda. However, in these five articles, the journalists are doing their job by informing the public of what’s occurring.
The frame or tone in which each of these articles stand tend to vary. All five articles were rigorous in citing their sources and went into heavy amounts of detail to give the full story. What the New York Times tended to highlight in all of these articles was the President’s foreign connections and their intent, and his tendency to keep speaking as if he was still campaigning. Not many counter-frames were offered, but one that stuck out to me was the fact that in the Roble’s piece, you can see that she did make it known that some small businesses were thriving from Trump’s visit’s to his private resort, Mar-a-Lago. The frame that remains to be the dominant one though is Trump’s connections with Russia.
The current political landscape, after reviewing these five articles, suggests that we are going to have a very long four years if Donald Trump persists to operate in this fashion, and if the media gives attention to every incident Trump is tied to. What is strange for me is I can see both sides. Donald Trump is following through with what he said he was going to do, and sects of the middle class are seeing their hero brave the media and defend his positions. From a journalistic point of view though, I can see that Trump needs to be monitored and questioned concerning his decisions and the company he keeps.
So, does the New York Times fairly report on Trump?
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Hell yes.
The far right criticizes the far left of being sensitive snowflakes. What they are not realizing though is that they are being just as sensitive toward any news that chastises Trump. The New York Times is simply reporting what they are seeing.
Trump’s use of Twitter is careless, and he speaks at these rallies and press conferences as if nothing he says is set in stone. I predict that without compromise (most of the compromise coming from Trump’s camp) the political landscape is damned to be fractured more so than it already is. The New York Times, along with other news organizations, needs to remain vigilant in their reporting of the truth.