CNN seems immune to discussing how their approach to reporting on presidents is like the month of March. It came in like a lion under Donald Trump and went out like a lamb with Joe Biden. Fox News media reporter Joseph Wulfsohn found that again at a conference over the weekend at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.
He reported on a panel discussion titled “Covering Candidates Who Don’t Want to be Covered,” where the focus was on Republicans like Trump and Ron DeSantis, who aggressively push back on liberal reporters. “Notably, there wasn’t any mention of President Biden, who has broken norms by the lack of interviews and press conferences he has granted since taking office.” But Biden pretends to be “pro-press” as he avoids them like the plague!
CNN political director David Chalian was asked how reporters can refrain from “accidentally becoming characters in a campaign narrative” when covering combative candidates. He responded by saying journalists must remain “dogged and respectful” when it comes to those who want to ice out legacy media outlets.
But when it came to GOP candidates who see the media as “the enemy,” Chalian insisted journalists don’t have a “desire” to become an actor in their “political play” and urged reporters to remain “calm, professional, respectful” to those who want to “bait” them into being combative.
The panel moderator, McKay Coppins of The Atlantic, pushed back with an obvious note:
“You just said something really important that I’m not sure is the consensus view in our industry anymore, or it’s at risk which is that we are not supposed to be actors in these political dramas,” Coppins said.
“I guess I wonder, do you worry at all that the incentives of the last few years have started to flow the other way in our industry?… There is a tendency when you find yourself in an adversarial position with a campaign to kind of inadvertently become like a folk hero to some segment of the voters or constituents who don’t like that politician, and they end up, you know, singing your praise on Twitter, and they read your stories… I’m not going to name any names, have turned that into their entire brand, right? They become kind of resistance heroes in the Trump era.”
This brings to mind CNN’s Jim Acosta, first and foremost, who got a book deal and supportive interviews with late-night comedians as a #Resistance hero. But he wasn’t the only one — ABC’s Jonathan Karl and April Ryan also wrote “Aren’t I A Hero?” books about resisting Trump in the White House.
Chalian hilariously responded that “no doubt” it’s a concern for newsrooms but told Coppins “no reporter that I know of would want what you’re saying, to become a folk hero is the political calculus of a certain segment of the voting and political populations.”
“So yes, I’m not blind to the incentives that you’re talking about, about brand development. But I think the moment you’re in like individual brand development that is separate and apart from your work product… you’re in the wrong place,” Chalian concluded.