By this point, most have taken note of President Donald Trump’s distaste of the press. But what is it like to be assigned to cover the president under such antagonistic conditions? On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Major Garrett, CBS chief White House correspondent, joined host Don Marsh to discuss covering Trump during the 2016 election and into his presidency.
Garrett graduated from the University of Missouri in 1984 with degrees in journalism and political science. He is the featured speaker for the sixth annual First Amendment Celebration in support of the Gateway Journalism Review, an organization devoted to critically reviewing mass media across the Midwest, on March 23.
When asked if it was frustrating to report on the White House at a time of such animosity, Garrett said it wasn’t frustrating to him at all.
“It is energizing, it is important,” Garrett said. “If anything, I’m deeply encouraged by this particular scrape with this particular president at this level. It is elevating into the American consciousness in a way it hasn’t been present in the past 10 to 15 years a deep and important discussion about the value of journalism and the value of journalism in a free society and the important role it plays in holding all people in power accountable.”
Garrett was quick to say that almost every American president in some way or another has clashed with the reporters covering him.
“Almost every president has privately or publicly disdained the free press,” Garrett said. “No one has taken it to the rhetorical level of this president but any reporter who believes other presidents haven’t taken a run at the free press is wrong.”
Part of the problem with degrading trust in the media is increased levels of partisanship, Garrett said, a problem for which he does not have a solution. He did, however, have ideas for how journalists could and should approach covering the Trump administration going forward:
“What I do believe is most important for journalists who feel fraught emotionally at the accusations from the President: do not get emotional about that, don’t get invested in that, don’t be at war with anyone or try to win or gain anything,” Garrett said. “Focus on the rigorous demands of journalism and do it so well that it stands the test of time. You’re only as good as your last story.”
Listen as Garrett and Marsh discuss his connection to Midwest, experiences as a White House correspondent and more here:
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.