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Communication in the Age of Trump

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Edited By Arthur S. Hayes

Franklin Delano Roosevelt used radio fireside chats to connect with millions of ordinary Americans. The highly articulate and telegenic John F. Kennedy was dubbed the first TV president. Ronald Reagan, the so-called Great Communicator, had a conversational way of speaking to the common man. Bill Clinton left his mark on media industries by championing and signing the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996 into law. Barack Obama was the first social media presidential campaigner and president. And now there is President Donald J. Trump.

Because so much of what has made Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency unconventional has been about communication—how he has used Twitter to convey his political messages and how the news media and voters have interpreted and responded to his public words and persona—21 communication and media scholars examine the Trump phenomenon in Communication in the Age of Trump. This collection of essays and studies, suitable for communication and political science students and scholars, covers the 2016 presidential campaign and the first year of the Trump presidency.

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12. Trump, the Press Critic: Unethical and Ineffective (Arthur S. Hayes)

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12. Trump, the Press Critic: Unethical and Ineffective

ARTHUR S. HAYES

Fordham University

When President Donald Trump (2017d) tweeted, “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public,” in early October 2017, the response from the news media was mostly measured (Blake, 2017). Most observers recognized that Trump’s call to sic the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on NBC was unworkable.

The FCC licenses television and radio stations, not networks such as NBC (Media Bureau, 2008, p. 8). True, the FCC has a broadcast news distortion policy, empowering it to investigate a station “if it receives documented evidence … from individuals with direct personal knowledge that a licensee or its management engaged in the intentional falsification of the news” (Media Bureau, 2008, p. 14). But plaintiffs lost in the only two news distortion cases to reach appeals courts, Galloway v. FCC (1985) and Serafyn v. FCC (1998), though the FCC often receives complaints of inaccurate or one-sided news reports. Generally, the FCC “will not intervene in such cases because it would be inconsistent with the First Amendment to replace the journalistic judgment of licensees with our own” (Media Bureau, 2008, p. 14).

Empty threat of a crackdown or not, most observers noted that the tweet marked a turning point in Trump’s more than two-year diatribe against the mainstream news media, particularly those...

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