Stanford communication scholar James Hamilton looks at how presidents – past and present – have navigated relationships with the White. Each American President has had their own unique relationship to the media. Some used it to their advantage, others spent their terms butting. The relationship between a president and the press that covers him has been rocky for well over a century, with few ups and a whole lot of.
It should be noted that Hillary Clinton received almost as much negative coverage in the campaign. Going back to the time of Bill Clinton, no other chief executive has had such terrible scores. In other words, we are witness to a war between Trump and the press, playing out every day in newspapers and television.
Presidential Feuds With the Media Are Nothing New
Each morning brings a new revelation; each evening touches off a shouting match. It is difficult to remember any press secretary since Nixon's Ron Ziegler who has faced so much suspicion from the Fourth Estate. Yet what is equally surprising is how oblivious this White House is to what has gone wrong and how to fix it. His team is as disdainful of history as it is of time-honored traditions about press-government relations. Either they suffer from massive incompetence or extraordinary arrogance.
The secret to a healthy relationship with the press
The presidents who have built the best relationships with the press are those who respect its place in American life, have enjoyed a give and take with reporters and care about the truth. From Democrats like Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy to Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, press coverage has been much more favorable because those leaders in the Oval Office were not only good copy but men of character in their public lives. Reagan provides the most relevant example for Republicans today.
From the Washington establishment to the broadcast executives in New York, Reagan was held in minimally high regard when he first came to the Capital. Clark Clifford, a White House adviser, famously called him "an amiable dunce" at a Georgetown dinner party.
Meanwhile, a liberal press corps prepared for serious face-offs against the most conservative president in modern times. But the Reagans artfully defused the tensions when they accepted an invitation to dinner from Katherine Graham, then-publisher of The Washington Post. The Reagans proclaimed to Graham and her guests that they intended to become good neighbors, and they did.
Graham and Nancy Reagan hit it off so well they became lifelong friends. Ask the tough questions At the White House, with Reagan's blessing, chief of staff Jim Baker created an environment that was mostly -- not always -- solicitous of reporters.
The secret to a healthy relationship with the press (opinion) - CNN
Jim Brady, the press secretary in the early days, became a press favorite and, after he was shot in an attempted assassination attempt against Reagan, his successor Larry Speakes did his best to keep reporters reliably informed. Baker himself was a master with the press. Lou Cannon and Ann Devroy of The Washington Post, along with other key reporters from print and broadcast, had quick access to Baker on big stories.
At Baker's insistence, several of us on staff would meet every week with reporters from the weekly news magazines. More to the point, there was a culture of truth telling.
The president and the press
We definitely slipped up on some stories, putting out false information for example, on a Grenada invasionbut a high premium was placed on getting it right. When a sensitive national security story was breaking and Baker was briefing me in advance on what we might disclose to the press, his motto was: What Trump won't tweet: President Franklin Roosevelt's famous Fireside Chats, in which he directly addressed Americans in casual radio-broadcasted conversations twice a year, began partially as a means to circumvent the " editorial slant " that could come by letting the media disseminate his statements.
But presidential press conferences took off nonetheless, in part because they felt like an opportunity for citizens to see their chief executive face direct and challenging questions about their policies. When these sessions began being televised inthe public could see firsthand how the president fielded questions — what made him uncomfortable or angry, when he laughed — providing an even wider window into his personality and beliefs.
Kennedy begins his first news conference as president in the auditorium of the new State Department building. AP Photo With such exposure, presidents began manipulating the format of the conference to best sell their message. Veteran Associated Press photographer Scott Applewhite, who has documented the White House through six presidencies from Reagan to Trump, told the AP he witnessed "the evolution of politicians and presidents staging the news, staging the visuals, and basically creating their view of perfection through props, environment, signage etc.
Johnson displays the incision from his gall bladder surgery and kidney stone removal at a news conference at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington. Bush was comfortable around us photographers, and we all sure enjoyed his attitude toward us. Clinton, the most natural-born politician of all, had it all — his emotions, mood, and expressions seemed constructed to reinforce the story of the day.
Bush talks with reporters from his window at Bethesda Naval Medical Center: