October 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
The Reuters news agency this week recognized the challenges of covering Donald Trump’s presidency by comparing it to authoritarian regimes like Egypt, Yemen and China.
“It’s not every day that a U.S. president calls journalists ‘among the most dishonest human beings on earth’ or that his chief strategist dubs the media ‘the opposition party’,” Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler wrote in a message to staff on Tuesday. “It’s hardly surprising that the air is thick with questions and theories about how to cover the new Administration.”
He cited the organization’s work in “Turkey, the Philippines, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Thailand, China, Zimbabwe, and Russia” as an example of how to report on the Trump administration.
Adler said that reporters could use experience learned in “nations in which we sometimes encounter some combination of censorship, legal prosecution, visa denials, and even physical threats to our journalists.”
Among other advice, the news agency pointed out that reporters should “[g]ive up on hand-outs and worry less about official access.”
“They were never all that valuable anyway. Our coverage of Iran has been outstanding, and we have virtually no official access. What we have are sources,” the memo said. “Get out into the country and learn more about how people live, what they think, what helps and hurts them, and how the government and its actions appear to them, not to us.”
The letter encouraged reporters to “never be intimidated” by the administration.
“Don’t vent publicly about what might be understandable day-to-day frustration. In countless other countries, we keep our own counsel so we can do our reporting without being suspected of personal animus. We need to do that in the U.S., too,” the message to reporters said. “Don’t take too dark a view of the reporting environment: It’s an opportunity for us to practice the skills we’ve learned in much tougher places around the world and to lead by example – and therefore to provide the freshest, most useful, and most illuminating information and insight of any news organization anywhere.”
(h/t: Ian Millhiser)