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Taking on Trump: What journalists need to know about covering a new administration

Taking on Trump: What journalists need to know about covering a new administration

The 19 Million Project and 6 Degrees | February 06, 2017

U.S. media outlets will need to prioritize their investigative journalism and storytelling skills in order to question the narratives imposed by President Donald Trump's administration, according to Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, special correspondent at AJ+, and Rafa Fernández, consultant for Mexico and Latin America at Fusion.

The two young journalists participated in a live talk organized by The 19 Million Project and 6 degrees earlier this month. The session was part of #TalkingInclusion, a series of online dialogues the two organizations will hold this year to discuss issues related to migration, refugees, diversity and the media.

“Specifically in the context of immigration, I think the media needs to point out examples where individuals or communities have had success stories,” said Shihab-Eldin in a conversation moderated by Belén Arce Terceros. These success stories, he said, should "challenge and push back against these kinds of narratives that are reductive and kind of dangerous." 

Fernández noted the need for heavy-hitting investigative journalism as well as stories that show immigration's positive impact on the country.

“The media needs to go back to investigating," Fernández said. "I think we need to uncover a new Watergate; there's a lot of potential for that. We have to forget about clicks [for a while], forget about just quick hits about how Trump contradicts himself. You need to catch him doing something that's clearly unconstitutional. And I think we've already seen hints of that.”

One major challenge facing media outlets is how to cover President Trump’s controversial and impulsive rhetoric on immigrants and Muslims, Fernández and Shihab-Eldin said.

“Defining immigrants as criminals is part of a policy to get support for a hardline immigration policy,” Fernández said. “The trick question here is how do you call out Trump? He's been very savvy in discrediting the media, and actually he's now going directly to Twitter to make announcements, policy announcements."  

Shihab-Eldin added it's the media's responsibility not to normalize such behavior.

“It's very difficult to challenge someone like Trump, this kind of maniacal disregard for any accountability, both personal and otherwise." he said. “We have to be real about how we have to operate in an era where Trump may tweet [fallacies] 20 times fallacies."

The AJ+ reporter also emphasized the importance of “sticking to the facts… even if you come across as biased for challenging someone in power.”

“Especially at times like this, it's all the more important to live up to the idea that journalism is about challenging the comfortable or afflicting the comfortable, and comforting the afflicted,” he concluded.

Watch the full conversation here. Follow @19mmproject and @6degreesTO for information on upcoming sessions of #TalkingInclusion.

Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Diego Cambiaso.

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