A University of Nebraska graduate who has had a front row seat to the unconventional presidency of Donald Trump says though the rules of Washington have changed, the news media must continue to focus on its job.
CNN Senior White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny delivered the Peter J. Hoagland Integrity in Public Service Lecture at his alma mater, the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, last night.
Zeleny, a native of Exeter, covers the Trump Administration for CNN. He has also worked for ABC News and the New York Times. He has also covered President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush.
Prior to his speech entitled, “Exercising the First Amendment: Covering the Trump Campaign and White House,” he spoke to a handful of reporters.
Zeleny said Trump is a president consumed by media and one who knows how to play the media, sometimes using outrageous Tweets or statements to deflect attention from other subjects.
Zeleny said normal Washington rules don’t seem to apply with a president who views the news media as the opposition party.
“I do not view the press as the opposition party,” Zeleny told reporters. “We are not on a war time footing with this president. We are doing our jobs. That said, it is incumbent on us to call things out when they’re not accurate.”
Zeleny said he cannot recall another president calling on Congress to investigate the media.
As for Trump’s constant bashing of the news media, including his constant refrain that negative reports are fake news, Zeleny downplayed the effect on journalism. Zeleny said the credibility of all institutions have suffered the past few years in America and Trump has simply exploited that.
“I think the president has successfully tap into a lot of the erosion of the trust in the media that has already been there. But he is certainly compounding that, no question about it.”
In one respect, the president’s press bashing has had a positive effect, according to Zeleny, who says more and more people seem to be interested in solid reporting on Washington.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]