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Major media outlets make no secret that the election of Donald Trump as president has been good for business as the TV ratings and online reach of 24-hour cable news networks soars.
But ABC News chief James Goldston on Tuesday made a surprising admission about the U.S. leader during a keynote address to the Banff World Media Festival — Trump has overseen a renaissance of journalism in America.
“This [Trump] administration has given us a true clarity of purpose about what we do as journalists every day. He has single-handedly shaken up journalism, he has reinvigorated journalism,” declared Goldston, before adding, “It feels like a new golden age.”
The network exec conceded Trump’s infamous comments about “fake news” and branding the press as the “enemy of the people” were having a corrosive effect on how Americans viewed the media. “I don’t think we can pretend this talk of fake news doesn’t have an impact. It has an impact,” he said.
Trump has included ABC News in his attacks on media organizations as purveyors of fake news, and former ABC News correspondents, executives and producers earlier petitioned Goldston and fellow top network execs to take a firm stand against any Trump administration effort to curtail press access.
Goldston even admitted to earlier envy towards his media rivals when Trump first made his infamous Feb. 17 tweet that rebuked the “fake news media” as “SICK!”
“I had two reactions to this tweet. The first was that’s an extraordinary statement. And the second was, what about ABC News?” Goldston recalled. His good fortune was Trump took down his first tweet and replaced it an hour later with a re-post that included “@ABC” alongside The New York Times, NBC News, CBS and CNN.
“He retweeted to say we were also an enemy of the American people,” a beaming Goldston told the Banff audience. To back his case that fact-filled and faultless journalism is an antidote to President Trump’s attacks on the news media, Goldston included in his address, via a video feed, real-time appearances by George Stephanopoulos, the chief anchor for ABC News, and two of his top reporters, Jonathan Karl and Martha Raddatz.
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Together, the ABC News quartet delivered a 20-minute private briefing to Banff delegates on the news of the day, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ just-concluded testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. “He [Sessions] confirmed the basic facts that [fired FBI director James] Comey laid out last week,” Stephanopoulos told the festival, before he and Karl and Raddatz then talked about the unpredictable and unprecedented nature of the Trump administration.
“It’s great theater, and John sees it every single day, and he appears to be the only person who Donald Trump ever calls on again and again and again,” Raddatz said of her colleague Karl, who is the chief White House correspondent for ABC News.
“It’s an improv presidency. It changes from time to time,” added Karl, with all three ABC News journalists noting that Trump’s communications team and surrogates are hard-pressed to speak on the president’s behalf. “It is a challenge every day to figure out what the president stands for and figure out whether or not you can trust the information you are getting from the White House.”
The ABC News reporters also noted it was a challenge to treat Trump and his administration “fairly” when efforts were made to demonize them.
“Sometimes that appears to some people that we may not be fair,” said Stephanopoulos. “But it’s the only way we can be fair and stand up for fact-based journalism and hold those who speak for the president accountable for what they say.”
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