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Cronkite Professor Releases Report on Trump and the Media

April 16, 2020
Leonard Downie Jr.

Leonard Downie Jr.

A new report authored by Leonard Downie, Jr., former editor of The Washington Post and a journalism professor at Arizona State University, documents the Trump administration’s attacks on U.S. news organizations and the consequences for media credibility and a free press.

The special report, “The Trump Administration and the Media,” issued Thursday by the Committee to Protect Journalists, highlights the administration’s stepped-up prosecutions of news sources, interference in the financial independence of some media owners, and the harassment of journalists, particularly at U.S. borders. It also shows how the White House’s approach has emboldened authoritarian leaders to silence the press in their own countries.

But the report states that Trump’s “most effective ploy” has been to destroy the credibility of the press, dangerously undermining truth and consensus even as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to kill tens of thousands of Americans.

The report, which includes research from Stephanie Sugars, a reporter for the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, is based on interviews with more than 40 journalists, media law experts, academics and administration officials. Downie, who is the Weil Family Professor of Journalism at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, also authored CPJ’s 2013 report on the Obama administration’s efforts to evade scrutiny from the press.

The report includes a set of recommendations for the administration, including standing up publicly for press freedom, refraining from actions discrediting the media, improving information accessibility and ending the practice of bringing espionage charges against those accused of leaking sensitive information to journalists. CPJ sent a letter to the White House with a copy of the report, recommendations and a request for a meeting.