“There could certainly be a softening because we’re not looking to hurt people . . . We want people — we have some great people in this country.”
-Trump to Sean Hannity, August 24, 2016
“I don’t think it’s a softening. I’ve had people say it’s a hardening, actually.”
-Trump to Anderson Cooper, a day later
Presidential nominee, Donald Trump, has wavered on policy points in this pivot from the primary process to the general election. His position is always strongly worded and “plainly” delivered, but many are noting how the positions are inconsistent. Inconsistency makes reporting on the policies of a Trump administration exceedingly difficult for reporters. I do not envy journalists on the Trump beat.
Take, for example, a recent New York Times piece on the candidate’s immigration plan.
NYT reporter, Patrick Healy, has the unenviable task to produce a coherent story on the Trump immigration plan, a touchstone of the campaign and a central issue that allowed Trump to rise to the top of the Republican scrum.
Adding to Healy’s troubles, the Trump campaign is fond of disputing the neutrality of reporters when the message does not reflect his position clearly. News media are “scum” and “so dishonest,” he often intones to an audience eager to dismiss mainstream media.
As the revision process suggests (documented by NewsDiffs), reporting on the Trump campaign can get quite messy, reflecting the messiness of the candidate’s political messaging itself.
So, how do we get clarity in reporting when there is so little? It is the job of good election journalism to clarify and summarize the position of the candidates. But what happens when candidates refuse to offer clear policy positions while attacking the press for misinterpreting the message?