This marks the fourth year in a row that Politico Magazine has surveyed the White House press corps, our annual snapshot of the highs, lows and general chaos of trying to cover the most powerful office on earth. Every administration has its own running fights with the press, but this year the context was different from the start: a new president who gets unparalleled media attention, yet has publicly attacked the press over and over since taking office. President Donald Trump has called the media “fake news,” the “enemy of the American people,” “dishonest” and much more; he has singled out individual reporters with criticism and name-calling. At the same time, Trump has welcomed multiple outlets into the Oval Office for interviews, makes a point of praising the journalists he likes, and devours print and TV coverage of him and his staff. And in case there was any doubt that this was a new team with a whole new relationship to the media, for the first time (that we know of), someone in the press corps leaked our questions to the administration—and, for the first time, the White House emailed Politico Magazine demanding detailed answers about the survey and how it was conducted. (The answers are in the fine print at the end of this piece.)
So what’s it really like to cover Trump? Does he really treat the media like the “opposition party,” in his adviser Steve Bannon’s words? How does this president compare with previous ones in terms of access? And what’s it like to interact with his now-famous retinue of staffers—like press secretary Sean Spicer, whose briefings earn regular TV coverage and “Saturday Night Live” parodies? Finally, how do reporters rate their own coverage of the Trump presidency?
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We posed these and a range of other questions to more than 60 journalists who cover 1600 Pennsylvania, and their answers may surprise you. While 68 percent of them think Trump is the most openly anti-press president in U.S. history, 75 percent said they see Trump’s attacks against the media as more of a distraction than a threat. Forty-two percent said they think Trump offers about as much access to the press as previous presidents. Some reporters lamented getting “constant misinformation” from the White House press shop or being subjected to “ interrupted rants.” But others described the administration’s clashes with journalists as merely part of historical tradition or—with more than a hint of stoicism—“just another day at the office.”
Graphics by 5W Infographics. Survey was conducted from March 15-26. Percentages are rounded to whole numbers.
Donald Trump vs. The Press
True or false: Donald Trump is the most openly anti-press president in U.S. history.
On a scale from 1 (friendly) to 10 (outright hostile), how do you think the Trump administration treats the media overall?
What’s the most outrageous thing a Trump White House staffer has said to you or done in your presence?
Are Trump’s attacks against the media—“fake news,” “enemy of the American people,” “dishonest,” etc.—more of a distraction or a threat?
If you’ve covered past presidents, does the Trump White House offer more or less access to the media?
Do you think Trump knows you by name?
Which previous U.S. president does Trump remind you most of, and why?
Have you ever been lied to by a member of the Trump administration?
Do you communicate with White House officials through any encrypted apps?
How often do you get complaints from the White House about your stories?
When I hear the phrase “fake news,” I think…
Inside the Trump Press Shop
The White House aide who’s least helpful to journalists is…
The White House aide who’s most helpful to journalists is…
The White House story we’re not paying enough attention to is…
On a scale from 1 (pointless) to 10 (essential), how useful do you find the daily White House press briefing?
How often do you attend the briefing?
Should the briefing continue to be televised?
Has diversifying the briefing by giving more questions to nontraditional outlets been a good change?
Has adding Skype questioners to the briefings been a good change?
The White House story we’re paying too much attention to is…
How long do you predict Spicer will stay on as press secretary?
Which member of the Trump White House should SNL parody next, and who should play the part?
How well are we doing?
Do you think the media’s coverage of Trump’s presidency has been biased in his favor, against him or not at all?
Which reporter does the best job covering Trump?
Which outlet does the best job?
The White House Correspondents’ Dinner
Will your news organization attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year?
Will you attend?
What do you think of Trump’s decision not to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner?
When Trump called the press the “enemy of the American people,” I thought…
About the Respondents
Respondents (63): Takaaki Abe/Nippon Television; Yasmeen Alamiri/CGTN America; Tomoko Ashizuka/Nikkei; Peter Baker/New York Times; Cheryl Bolen/Bloomberg BNA; Christy Bowe/Image-Catcher News Service; Paul Brandus/West Wing Reportds; Adrian Carrasquillo/BuzzFeed; Francesca Chambers/Daily Mail; Ching-Yi Chang/Shanghai Media Group; Greg Clugston/SRN News; Kaitlan Collins/Daily Caller; David Corn/Mother Jones; Bob Costantini/Westwood One News; Philip Crowther/France 24; Josh Dawsey/POLITICO; Thomas DeFrank/National Journal; Jordan Fabian/The Hill; Andrew Feinberg/Sputnik Newswires; Jacqueline Fell/Cox Media Group; William Gallo/Voice of America; Todd Gillman/Dallas Morning News; Bryant Harris/Yomiuri Shimbun; Lalit K Jha/Press Trust of India; Chris Johnson/Washington Blade; Tamara Keith/NPR; Gregory Korte/USA Today; Anita Kumar/McClatchy; Richard Latendresse/TVA Novellas; Connie Lawn/Audio Video News; Lucia Leal/Efe News; Kana Duk Lee/Korean Broadcasting System; Juan Carlos Lopez/CNN; Fred Lucas/Daily Signal; Lachlan Markay/Daily Beast; Greg Mathieson Sr./MAI Photo News Agency; Erin McPike/IJR; Gabby Morrongiello/Washington Examiner; Matthew Nussbaum/POLITICO; Olivia Nuzzi/New York Magazine; Toluse Olorunnipa/Bloomberg; Tara Palmeri/POLITICO; John Parkinson/ABC; Katie Pavlich/Townhall; Maria Peña/La Opinion & Impremedia; Bill Press/Young Turks Network & Bill Press Show; Chris Raasch/St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Ellen Ratner/Talk Media News; Jared Rizzi/Sirius XM; Jonathan D. Salant/NJ Advance Media & Star-Ledger; Andrew Scritchfield/NBC; Steve Scully/C-SPAN; Andrei Sitov/TASS News Agency of Russia; David Smith/Guardian; Emily Stephenson/Reuters; Jim Stinson/LifeZette; Karen Travers/ABC; Kenneth T. Walsh/U.S. News & World Report; Christina Wilkie/Huffington Post; Michael Wilner/Jerusalem Post; Jennifer Wishon/Christian Broadcasting Network; John Yang/PBS; Trey Yingst/One America News Network.