By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
President Donald Trump declared the media as “enemy of the American people” after his first press conference last week.
Honestly, I felt sorry for the media, being a part of it myself. Trump was like King Kong, with mighty power and size, but its brain was minutely smaller compared to those journalists who are clear-minded and intelligent. The journalists were like numerous Davids surrounding Goliath.
Polls and tweets say that Trump should be impeached because of his frequent lies, manipulation of facts, constant praise and defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin (like he has something to hide), dysfunctional administration, and conflicts of interest with his businesses.
Impeachment is a long, long shot. It might or might not happen. Between now and then, the media will still have to deal with Trump for more than 1,400 days (four-year term). That’s a lot of press conferences. What should the media do so as not to let Trump run them over? What are some of the things the media did right and what could they do better?
1. Armed with facts to challenge Trump
The media should be fully aware, vigilant, and prepared every time they encounter Trump and challenge his “facts” and lies,so that his weaknesses and incompetence can be exposed.
I credit NBC’s Peter Alexander for being quick to refute Trump’s assertion that his victory of 306 electoral votes was the biggest since President Reagan. “I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan,” Trump said.
Alexander pointed out that President Barack Obama (365, 332 electoral votes in two consecutive elections), among others, had a larger margin. President George H.W. Bush had 426, and President Bill Clinton had 379 and 370 electoral votes in two consecutive elections.
In response, Trump said, “I don’t know. I was given that information.” It instantly shows he doesn’t know his facts, and his staff members are just as incompetent. Alexander should have challenged him further, “Who gave you that information?”
2. Team up
Media organizations are competitive. They all want the scoop and to get credit for asking tough questions. With Trump, it’s a different case. It takes teamwork to confront his administration and manipulation of his messages.
If the media could collaborate and come up with a list of questions that everybody agrees to ask, that would serve a greater purpose than just getting superficial responses from Trump and letting him get away with even one lie.
3. Cut to the chase
Ask direct questions without mincing words. At the press conference, Trump called on Jake Turx of Ami Magazine, a Jewish publication, who gave lengthy remarks before he actually asked his question.
Why couldn’t Turx just begin with, “There’s been a report that 48 bomb threats have been made…? Add, “What is the government going to do about anti-Semitic acts?”
Instead, he rambled before ever asking the actual question. By that time, Trump cut him off and responded that it wasn’t a fair question. He thought Turx was accusing him of being anti-Semitic, and missed the whole point.
Remember, Trump is not a good listener because he’s used to telling people what to do, and not vice versa. Trump’s attention span is short like a child’s. He can’t digest long questions and remarks.
4. Question his memory and credibility
Trump doesn’t have the best memory. At the press conference, it is vital to have journalists with photographic memories who can verify quickly what he said in the past, as he doesn’t remember.
Nor does he remember what he heard. He can only digest information in bits and pieces. And he’ll parrot that information the following day, as if he was giving out new information. Trump can easily misread, misinterpret, and misunderstand the real context of things he may have heard.
5. You have books in you
If Trump is going to be around for four full years, it can be exhausting and demeaning for any White House correspondent, unless you are a subjective fan of the president. I feel your pain. But it can also be the most rewarding and interesting time of your career, knowing that you are contributing to the thread of democracy, which is being tested and twisted by Trump and his administration.
Save all the juice — evidence to bring down this president. I wish you luck in your stories and the next book.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.