Journalist Peter Baker has covered the White House since Bill Clinton took office and he said there’s nothing normal about this president.
The White House correspondent for the New York Times spoke on journalism in the age of President Donald Trump to a completely filled Stackhouse Theater on Thursday, Oct. 24.
During the question and answer session, an audience member asked Baker to explain a “normal” presidency and how it compares to the current one.
“Take President Trump and do everything the opposite,” Baker said, describing him as a “disrupter of the presidency” and “untethered from tradition.”
Baker said Trump’s relationship with news media was complicated. On one hand, he said, he speaks to news media more than past presidents. But he also takes a hostile view of news media by accusing reporters and organizations “fake news” or, in Baker’s case, “the failing New York Times.”
Baker said Trump doesn’t respond to the same level of scrutiny for stating false claims like many other politicians.
“He is intentionally not telling the truth, and he doesn’t care,” Baker said. “He says exactly what he is thinking.”
Baker said he expects the next president elected in 2020, if it isn’t Trump, to focus on restoring normalcy, but that Trump’s mark on journalism won’t immediately disappear.
“[Trump’s] dynamic will be there no matter who is next in line,” Baker said.
Baker emphasized the truth and accuracy of the New York Times.
“The only thing we have left is our credibility,” Baker said. “Being factual, being correct is the most important thing we do.”
He expressed the importance of students keeping journalism alive outside Washington, D.C., on the local and state level.
“You guys have a big role to play,” Baker said. “We need student journalists to step up these days.”
Baker said he visits Trump rallies to understand differences in opinion.
“We are segregating ourselves as a society,” he said. “We don’t even want to interact with each other as much anymore.”
Baker said there is a danger of “losing trust with the country” that he never wants to see happen.
“We have to get out of our comfort zone and understand the country we live in,” he said.