Mastering the Media

by Sarah Niebler, assistant professor of political science

Sarah Niebler, assistant professor of political scienceDonald Trump is one of only a few U.S. presidents not to have previous electoral experience. Because of his inexperience in this arena, I will be interested in watching how he interacts with large governmental institutions and bureaucracies. Political science research has shown us that skills required to govern are quite different from the skills required to govern effectively (see Gutman and Thompson’s 2012 book, The Spirit of Compromise: Why Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It). Therefore, in the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency, I will look at the ways he interacts with the media—an institution many argued he benefited from during the campaign, but one he has recently antagonized.

Trump has shown considerable disdain for the media—the so-called fourth branch of government—yet, if he is to be a successful president, at the very least he will need to interact with the mainstream media in a non-hostile manner. It may be easy to think Trump’s prolific tweeting negates support from traditional media organizations, yet the majority of Americans are not actually following Trump on Twitter. Indeed, Trump’s Twitter followers comprise less than one-third the number of votes he earned in the November election. Thus, most Americans still learn about government and politics the way they have for generations: from professional journalists working for reputable news organizations. The same news organizations that raised the profile of Trump during the election by covering him non-stop could be his undoing as he tries to get his cabinet officials confirmed and implement public policy.