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Trump and the U.S. media. (Cartoon by Gary Varvel via http://thefederalistpapers.org/)

If you’re keen to follow the twists and turns of the Trump presidency, the Doc has drawn up a guide to the best (and worst) #Trumpistan news sources. 

LAST WEEK, I reviewed the coverage of #WatersportsGate and the supposed dossier on Trump compiled by former MI6 spy Christopher Steele. I ended by suggesting that it will be hard to filter media coverage of Trump’s presidency because of confusion around what we mean by “fake news”, and because Trump and his associates see no moral boundaries that prevent them from flat out lying.

If the lie is in danger of being exposed, then don’t admit — just double the efforts at covering your tracks and, when necessary and whenever possible, just keep on lying.

It is clear that this will be the modus operandi of the 45th President and his entourage of bankers, wankers and general ne’er-do-good followers, who are now going to infest the “swamp” in Washington DC.

If you’re keen to follow the twists and turns of the Trump presidency and to see the most reliable news about the goings-on in #Trumpistan, then take note of the following guide to news sources.

I’ve listed a number of pro-Trump sources here too, including the most notorious of them because, while their coverage is likely to be wildly inaccurate at times, they provide some useful clues to the thinking and strategy development in the Trumpian hive mind.

Mainstream sources — compromised from the start

If you’re a regular reader to IA then you probably have a well-developed scepticism when it comes to the mainstream news media (MSM). There are several good reasons why you should maintain this sceptical approach to MSM coverage of Donald Trump in office.

When it comes to the Australian news media, the two major outlets – Fairfax and News Limited – are compromised, but for different reasons.

Fairfax newspapers and websites are so understaffed and under resourced that they cannot afford much, if any, original coverage of the U.S. any more. We still get the occasional piece by veteran foreign correspondent Paul McGeough, but let’s be honest: his best days are behind him and he will struggle to keep up with the intricacy and detail of American political news even if he were to be full-time in DC. McGeough travels the globe for Fairfax and he won’t have the access to Washington insiders that other media have. So what, if anything, is Fairfax planning to do about this?

It seems that the cheap and cheerful fix for Fairfax is going to be buy-ins from The Washington Post and The New York Times (and maybe a few others). That’s OK, as far as it goes, but it means that the problems inherent in these two solid stalwarts of American journalism will be imported, unfiltered, into the Fairfax coverage.

Why is this a problem? Well, there’s generally a problem (or several) with the way that the American establishment media is going to cover the Trump White House and administration.

The heroic Russian journalist-in-exile, Masha Gessen, has pointed this out in a series of four simple tweets:

In a beautiful portmanteau creation, Gessen calls this #Trumpiandrift and identifies it as a serious issue in MSM coverage of Trump’s outrages. The New York Times and The Washington Post will be keen to remain in this neutral “middle ground” throughout the Trump presidency. They will not want to do too much to upset him.

However, having said that there are some excellent reporters working on the Trump story and the best of them are going to be very busy over the next four years. Some of them do work for the NYT and the WaPo, so my recommendation is read them for yourself. At the moment, both have a soft paywall, which means you can access their content.

One WaPo journalist worth keeping an eye on (and following on Twitter @Fahrenthold) is David Fahrenthold. He exposed Trump’s many lies about his eponymous charity The Trump Foundation and followed the disappearing money trail.

If you upset Trump, you will no longer have access

In a now infamous incident at his January press call, Donald Trump called out CNN as a source of “fake news” and refused to take a question from reporter Jim Acosta. In a display of poor form that highlights Gessen’s “Trumpiandrift” thesis, other correspondents didn’t stick up for CNN, instead they moved away, lest they be also sent to Coventry by the incoming administration. 

In a recent interview, CNN chief executive Jeff Zucker hit back at Trump and issued some very clear warnings about how difficult it will be for non-compliant media to cover politics for the next four years:

“[The Trump team’s] willingness and inclination to cherry-pick facts, conflate and inflate things, will make covering this administration very challenging,” Zucker told New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman this week, adding that “the era of access journalism as we’ve known it is over.”

Well, he’s half-right about this. Any news outlet that disrespects Trump will be frozen out and won’t be given access or exclusive news feeds, but the opposite will be true for news media that allow Trump’s lies to go unchallenged, or that publish his outrageous statements without criticism.

The Wall Street Journal loves Donald Trump

CNN global president Jeff Zucker has nailed the problem in this one statement:

Look, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that friendly outlets have been the ones that have ended up with the interviews with Donald Trump. Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, the Times of London — the fact that they’re all Rupert’s publications, I don’t think it’s any coincidence those are the outlets that ended up with the interviews.

Be under no illusions, the bromance between Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch is under way. It is a new relationship, but it has been lovingly consummated. Trump has given interviews to Murdoch outlets and they fawned over him like infatuated teens on hormone therapy.

The Times reporter who interviewed Trump, Michael Gove, is now sycophant-in-chief in the Murdoch camp. He allowed himself to be used as a prop in this photo taken after the soft interview.

One of these men is an ass-licking sycophant, the other is a narcissist. Which is which? Source: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news.

Gove is also a pro-Brexit British MP and he defended the photo-opp as “light-hearted joshing” and doesn’t see any conflict of interest between his elected role and his reporting duties for Murdoch’s newspaper.

Murdoch’s deference to Trump is also apparent in the Wall Street Journal’s editorial decision to be circumspect in how it describes the President-elect’s compulsive lying. Editor-in-chief Gerard Baker said to call out Trump’s lies might seem like “bias” (stop laughing).

I would be careful about using the word lie," Baker told NBC's Meet the Press.

He then doubled down on his explanation:

"Lie implies much more than just saying something that's false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead. I think if you start ascribing a moral intent, as it were, to someone by saying that they lied, I think you run the risk that you look like you are not being objective."

Well, us less-gifted folk who don’t get the nuance like this obvious genius, Mr Baker, will have to make do with recognising that we are wrong when we think Trump does have a “deliberate intent to mislead”.

However, I can’t help thinking that deliberately misleading people is what Trump’s lies are for. They are not a forgetting thing, or an innocent slip of the tongue. Any suggestion that the WSJ can maintain any objectivity in its reporting of Trump is delusional. Since Murdoch took over the once proud and reliable journal, it has degenerated into a partisan rag about on par with The Australian for credibility and objectivity.

WSJ deputy editor, Bret Stephens, shows this very clearly in this tweet — it’s worth following the thread to see him in full swing.

Which outlets are worth following?

I’ve divided news outlets into three rough groups, the mainstream media, which is pretty self-evident, and includes the NYT and WaPo as the most credible daily sources in this category; the pro-Trump media, and I would put the WSJ into this camp; and the anti-Trump media, which is a pretty large group.

Mainstream

The Washington Post and The New York Times are the premiere U.S. newspapers and the only two I would consider as essential sources. They have the resources to commit to constant coverage and they have the capable investigative journalists to dig into the hidden stories. For broadcast coverage, CNN is perhaps the best.

Pro-Trump

The Murdoch media is now firmly in the Trump camp. There has never been any doubt about Fox News, but now The Wall Street Journal, The Times in London and Murdoch’s Australian outlets are all firmly in the Trump camp.

Some Alt-Right news-like outlets are also worth watching, if only to get some understanding of the propaganda being fed to Trump supporters. The key one is Breitbart News, but there are others, particularly those funded by Murdoch and attached to Washington think tanks.

Anti-Trump

The anti-Trump camp is large and diverse and I would also lump some of the neutral non-MSM media into this group given the editorial positions they’ve taken during the election and POTUS-elect period.

The digital news outlets, Salon, Slate, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Vox, Vice and others have all upped their political coverage in recent months. If they keep it up during the Trumpistan-era they may grow their audiences. They are worth checking out for some interesting coverage.

Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, Mother Jones and Vanity Fair are all online and they have also increased their political coverage, most of their editorial positions would put them in the anti-Trump camp, at least for now. The Young Turks provides a two-hour per-day videocast and you can rewatch the programs on the TYT YouTube channel and on Facebook.

Admittedly, Rolling Stone is covering the inauguration through the lens of an anti-Trump Beyonce social media post but, hey, it’s there. But the Village Voice is more interesting. This week, it ran a story arguing for Press Corp solidarity in the face of Trump’s refusal to take a question from CNN. Vanity Fair’s lead story is about how Trump’s presidency is going to enrich Wall Street, not drain the swamp.

There’s also a couple of DC-based politics-focused sites to keep an eye on, such as Politico and The Hill. Their coverage is relatively straight, but it is honest and, therefore, not pro-Trump.

On the political left, there are several good U.S.-based media outlets that provide text, podcast and video news. You can also find these sources on Twitter and, usually, Facebook too. Here’s a brief list and here’s a “top ten” list, and a longer one, and a recommendation for journalists to follow (not vetted by me).

  • Democracy Now! – ‘people need easy access to independent, diverse sources of news and information’
  • CounterPunch  ‘Tells the facts. Names the names’
  • AlterNet – ‘to inspire action and advocacy on the environment, human rights and civil liberties’
  • TruthDig – ‘reporting on current issues that are insufficiently covered by mainstream media’
  • CommonDreams – ‘To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good’
  • The Intercept – 'solid investigative journalism, pulls no punches'
  • Truthout – 'Fearless, independent News and Opinion'

And not forgetting one of the most trusted mainstream newspapers in the world, thanks to its unique ownership structure and independent editorial policy:

  • The Guardian – 'open, independent, courageous journalism, free of political or commercial masters'

The easiest way to follow U.S. news is to download an App called simply “News” and you can then get a feed of both WaPo and NYT stories and many of the outlets mentioned in this piece (among many others). I recommend you get this app and populate it with news sources of your own choosing. If you don’t like using Apple products, you can find other solutions for iPhone and iPad, Macs, Android and PCs. The reason that these readers are a good solution is they collate all your news sources into one easy to use location via a simple RSS feed, and allow for good headline comparison and multiple takes on the same story.

For a simple way to follow the Donald in #Trumpistan, you can just follow me on Twitter and/or subscribe to my paper.li daily update The Trumpistan Times.

You can read more by IA's political editor Dr Martin Hirst on his blog Ethical Martini and follow him on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

Stephen Colbert on Trump getting ready for Day One! Hilarious! Published 18 January, 2017.

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