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News organizations confounded by self-publishing president-elect

Unprecedented: The way Donald Trump first captured, and is now circumventing, traditional news media.

Having been almost universally available, at least telephonically, to media during his primary and national election campaigns (and many media prospered covering him), Mr. Trump is now becoming the self-publishing “tweeter-in-chief”.

It’s giving many journalists extremely difficult choices. The New York Times encapsulated the dilemma with this headline: “If Trump Tweets It, Is it Always News? A Quandary for the News Media.”

Times reporters Michael M. Grynbaum and Sydney Ember drilled down on the quandary this way:

“How to cover a president’s pronouncements when they are both provocative and maddeningly vague? Does an early-morning tweet amount to a planned shift in American policy? Should news outlets, as some readers argue, ignore clearly untrue tweets, rather than amplify falsehoods further?”

Mr. Trump’s tweet barrage is central to a post-modern media opportunity: his direct access to a welcoming audience coupled with limiting access for questions from journalists (his press conferences have all but disappeared in recent months.)

This media relations strategy is, of course, made possible by the epic development of digital news – and pseudo news – distribution.  It’s not Luther and coming of the printing of the bible, but it is analogous.

Not surprisingly, the Trump tweet-dom has attracted heavy criticism by journalists and other influential. A sampling:

“Media would be wise to stop hyper-coverage of Trump’s tweets – they distract, distort and debase” – Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation.

International challenges should not be confronted “with slogans and with little pithy tweets … We cannot survive if we are a fact-free nation” – John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State.

Journalists may have a way out of this maze: A dedicated space for the tweets, not unlike how newspapers convey their errata. Seems fitting.

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