What Anderson Cooper Tells Kellyanne Conway Makes His Job As A Reporter Clear
Following news of an unverified report alleging Russia had "compromising" information about the President-elect, Donald Trump's administration has made it clear it's not pleased with CNN. The network was first to report that Trump and Obama were allegedly briefed on the allegations last week, though it never released the details of those allegations to the public. Both Trump and Russia firmly denied the report's allegations. On Wednesday evening, the topic arose again when Anderson Cooper interviewed Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s senior adviser. As it turns out, both had a lot to say about journalism and the president's portrayal in the media.
Conway brought up the difference between headlines about Obama while he was President-elect and headlines about Trump now. According to Conway, articles about Obama concerned his Nobel Peace Prize and what people would be wearing to the inauguration, while articles about Trump now are allegedly not so light-hearted. In response, Cooper pointed out that CNN had interviewed Trump himself about the "birther" controversy at that time. But Conway pushed on, mentioning that businesses "usually get rid of the people who embarrass them, who didn't meet their projection goals," and that CNN and other news organizations should do the same. "How are we going to move forward and have a great relationship with major news organizations if everything just sounds and looks and seems the same?" Conway asked.
"To be honest, my job is not to have a great relationship with you," Cooper responded. While he clarified that he respects people in public positions, including Conway and Trump, "the job of the press is not to be buddy-buddy and hang out socially with everyone."
Cooper made an important point about journalism: that journalists should not be changing how they report the news based on what Trump, or any other public figure, wants. In a statement from CNN concerning its decision to report on the Russia allegations, the news organization referenced the First Amendment, and what it protects: "informing the people of the inner workings of their government."
News media inform the public, reporting on issues they consider to be in the public interest. Sure, media organizations could ignore the alleged briefings about Russian operatives (which have been denied by Trump and Russia) and report on what Trump's family will wear to the inauguration, like Conway said she would prefer. But then the press would be prioritizing Trump's feelings about media coverage over the interests of the general public. And that's just not how things are supposed to work in a democracy.