5 Rising Media Stars Who Speak Truth to Trump
As the president upends the rules of political journalism, Jim Acosta, Maggie Haberman, David Fahrenthold, Hallie Jackson and Ben Smith discuss the need for reporters to recalibrate: "You can't let one 'fake news' remark intimidate you."
The election of Donald Trump has been a galvanizing force in journalism, with ratings and readership up across the news spectrum as his unorthodox playbook and Twitter tirades — not to mention White House palace intrigue — have generated intense interest. Journalists covering Trump day in, day out also have seen their profiles raised and their lives upended.
"Trump creates then feeds off the energy he creates, and that's what we're seeing here," says Haberman, 43, the New York Times White House correspondent and CNN political analyst who covered the campaign and has maintained a relationship with the president; she was among his calls after his health care bill failed. "This is the business. It just moves faster than it ever did now." Adds NBC's White House correspondent Jackson, 32, who also anchors MSNBC's 10 a.m. hour: "Yes, you're sleeping four hours a night, and you can't run the risk of putting your phone down because you may miss some huge story. But for a journalist, there is no other story you'd want to be covering. It's the biggest story in the world."
There also is the challenge of stemming the stream of Trump's misdirects. "It's disconcerting when the president says stuff that isn't true," says BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Smith, 40, who authorized publication of the unverified Russia Dossier. "Not that that's unique to Trump, but he does it more shamelessly." During the campaign, The Washington Post's Fahrenthold, 39, contacted some 450 charities Trump claimed to have supported and found one donation — to the Police Athletic League in New York for less than $10,000. His reporting earned him a Trump rebuke — "nasty guy" — and on April 10, a Pulitzer Prize.
"I [asked] the Trump people a bunch of questions before my story came out, and they didn't answer. But after the story, they gave the answers they should've given me to CNN," he says. "After that, I posted my questions on Twitter. They didn't try that again."
CNN's chief White House correspondent Acosta, 45, has emerged as a foil for the president. Trump barked at him to "sit down" and slammed his network ("very fake news") at a Jan. 11 presser. But the heat is tempered by a measure of gratitude from strangers on the street who tell him to "keep up the good work," says Acosta (a colleague's mother also sent him banana bread). "It's a surreal experience to have the president call you fake news. So you stand your ground and continue to try to hold him accountable. I don't think you can let one 'fake news' remark intimidate you."
This story first appeared in the April 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.