Trump’s love-hate relationship with media intensifies

US President Donald Trump. (Reuters)
Updated 24 January 2017
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Trump’s love-hate relationship with media intensifies

At a campaign speech in August, Donald Trump pointed to a crowd of journalists covering the rally, and let rip.
“These people are the lowest form of life, I’m telling you,” he said of the journalists present, to some cheers from the crowd. “They are the lowest form of humanity.”
It was just one of several salvos in a long-running battle between Trump and the Fourth Estate — and one that experts tip will only get worse now that the 45th US president has taken office.
Just days before his inauguration, Trump said he plans to keep tweeting his views as the “only way to counteract… a very dishonest media.”
And the war with the mainstream media shows no sign of abating now Trump is in office. Just hours into his presidency, a row erupted over media coverage of Trump’s inauguration, specifically over the size of the crowd that gathered in Washington to see him sworn in. Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday took aim at some media outlets’ coverage of the inauguration, with the White House offering a vastly higher estimate of the size of the crowd that was present.
While Trump has slammed outlets for purveying “fake news”, he is — ironically, perhaps — on good terms with the far-right Breitbart News outlet, which itself has been accused of carrying bogus, or exaggerated stories.
On the campaign trail, Trump maligned the “dishonest media,” slammed mainstream media outlets for being “biased” and even, during one rally, mocked a disabled reporter.
But it has not been a one-sided battle. The New York Times published a memorably blunt letter from its lawyer, detailing why it was refusing to retract an article that featured two women accusing Trump of touching them inappropriately years ago.
And BuzzFeed recently took the controversial decision to publish a dossier alleging Russia has compromising information on Trump — despite the document having not been verified, and previously having been rejected by other media outlets.
More prosecutions of journalists?
Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan told AFP she expects a “hellish” time under President Trump. She expects Trump to “punish journalists for doing their jobs” and suspects his administration will be “awash in investigations and prosecutions of journalists.”
In a sign, perhaps, of how the relationship will play out, Trump’s administration last week signaled it may seek to remove reporters from their long-time home in the West Wing, which some journalists have interpreted as an assault on the freedom of the press.
But experts say that, despite his obvious disdain for the profession, Trump needs the media and the media needs Trump. It is just a typical a love-hate relationship.
Prof. Mark Feldstein, professor of Broadcast Journalism at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism — University of Maryland, described it as a “codependent” relationship.
“As much as Trump and the media may hate each other, they also need each other,” Feldstein told Arab News. “Trump uses the media as a foil and to get his message out and the media uses Trump to attract an audience.”
But the relationship is certainly a difficult one, Feldstein points out.
“The mainstream media’s relationship with Trump has been exceedingly contentious, more so than with any other president in history. Trump has vilified individual reporters, the news outlets they work for, and the institution of the press as a whole. At the same time, in the past few months elite media organizations have aggressively exposed Trump’s professional and personal scandals — quite fairly as a whole, in my opinion,” he said.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, said that the mainstream US media and Trump have had a “contentious” relationship to date. Now Trump has been sworn in, she expects the media to be more critical of him, but that the US president will continue to exploit the media.
“Parts of mainstream press are now in an adversarial rather than a skeptical posture toward Trump,” Jamieson told Arab News.
Christopher Wells, associate professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the media’s relationship with Trump “evolved over the course of the campaign.”
While some coverage was positive — such as the details of the size of Trump’s rallies — some of the media’s treatment of the then Republican candidate could be deemed “unfair,” Wells said.
“Some media did not take him particularly seriously, especially in the earlier stages of the campaign. In that sense, I think we saw the mainstream press underestimating Trump’s appeal to a large segment of the public,” Wells told Arab News.
“The press was also shocked that Trump would withstand the criticism of some of his own more outlandish statements, which seemed to break the known rules of running for office — but this did not stop them from printing stories about them, which they found was a great way to generate ratings. Additionally, the fact that trust in the US press is at historically low levels — and is incredibly low for Trump’s supporters especially — added to this.”

Dominating the news
Feldstein pointed out that, as a former reality TV star, Trump certainly knows how to manipulate the media.
“Trump has exploited the institutional weaknesses of the media by manipulating its insatiable appetite for constant controversy; he has dominated the news day after day, month after month with his tweets and outrageous statements, which overwhelm and drown out voices that otherwise might be heard,” Feldstein told Arab News.
“As a former TV reality star, he knows how to generate drama and ratings, leading television networks to cover him live constantly in ways they have never done before with other politicians because the networks make so much money from the bigger audiences that tune in to watch the spectacle.”
And as president, Trump now holds even more power.
“He will try to restrict and control the news media as much as he can. He will avoid unscripted news conferences, grant access to favored conservative reporters and increase government secrecy wherever he can. He will be vocal when he does not get positive news coverage and will try to go over the heads of the media directly to the public, through tweets, speeches, and scripted events,” said Feldstein.
“It will be a very acrimonious four years between the president and the press.”


Arab sport stars petition against ‘politicization’ of World Cup by Qatar’s BeIN

Updated 4 min 44 sec ago
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Arab sport stars petition against ‘politicization’ of World Cup by Qatar’s BeIN

DUBAI: Some of the biggest names in Arab sport have signed a petition to protest against the “politicization” of World Cup coverage by Qatar-owned broadcaster BeIN. 

The petition has already attracted more than 58,000 signatures, including those of some of the Arab world’s most prominent athletes and media personalities — with all calling for an end to the politically-driven comments carried by some of BeIN Sports’ hosts and pundits.

The website sports4everyone.org created the petition and invited fans around the world to urge FIFA President Gianni Infantino to investigate the coverage by the Qatari broadcaster’s Arabic channel.

Prominent sports figures, players, commentators and referees have all signed in protest after BeIN’s presenters and pundits were found to be intentionally making political comments in live coverage during and after the World Cup matches.

Among the signatories are Egyptian national football player Ahmed Hassan, Al Arabiya’s Sports Editor Battal Al-Goos, and former Saudi national team captain Yousif Althunaian.

BeIN Sports holds the rights to broadcast World Cup games across the Middle East and North Africa, although its channels are not available in Saudi Arabia, one of four Arab nations locked in a diplomatic dispute with Qatar over the latter’s alleged ties to terror groups. Doha denies the charges. 

“Sport rises above politics. FIFA tried to keep politics away from game. As fans, we are saddened by BeIN using its permission to telecast sports to transmit its political agenda, violating FIFA rules,” the petition read.

“BeIN exploited its rights to aggravate (the) dispute between Qatar and Saudi, insulting our nations during the opening match,” it added.

The petition website includes nine clips from BeIN Sports featuring pundits and presenters politicizing the World Cup’s opening match between Saudi Arabia and the host nation, Russia. The petition is available in Arabic, English, German, French and Spanish.

In one of the station’s broadcasts, a commentator accused Saudi Arabia of “selling out the Palestinian cause,” while in another the host suggested the Kingdom’s top sporting officials will become “prisoners at the Ritz-Carlton,” a reference to the detentions in Riyadh during last year’s anti-corruption drive.

Egyptian media analyst Abdellatif El-Menawy said BeIN had “distorted the global football event” by using it as a political tool against Saudi Arabia.

“This is an infringement of the rules and standards of professional media,” El-Menawy told Arab News on Saturday. 

“BeIN Sports has abandoned neutrality and professionalism,” he added, saying the network’s coverage after Saudi Arabia’s 5-0 defeat by Russia was “gloating” and “sarcastic.”

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar, said the political differences between BeIN Sports’ Arabic and English services were similar to those between Al Jazeera’s news channels. 

The news service’s Arabic channel has “unprofessional and unethical” commentary that is not seen on the English station, Al-Shehri said at the weekend. 

Another commentator called the disparity between BeIN Sports’ Arabic and English offerings “Al Jazeera syndrome” — in reference to the different political stances held by the news network’s two main channels. 

Lawyers contacted by Arab News at the weekend called on FIFA to investigate the matter saying the international football governing body “will have to look into and should take very seriously.”