The 2016 presidential race has shed a light the media’s role in elections, especially with Donald Trump’s ascendance as the Republican nominee. On Tuesday, Dan Rather and CNN’s Brian Stelter discussed the differences between this and previous elections and how the perception of the truth has been affected by candidates Hillary Clinton and Trump.
“It’s the most challenging presidential campaign for a journalist in my career lifetime,” Rather said during Dan Rather’s America. “I covered my first presidential campaign in 1952, but this is the most challenging.”
Stelter, who began his career covering elections in the early 2000s, agreed with that assessment and noted that in previous elections there was “much more agreement about the truth and about the set of facts that were on the table.”
“The difference this year is quite simple: it’s Donald Trump,” Stelter said. “We can’t make an equivalence about Trump and Clinton in this regard —Trump strays so far from the truth so often. On the other hand, Clinton, she shades the truth sometimes, there are corrections and falsehoods that come out of her campaign. But Trump is far beyond that, and that’s the challenge for journalists. How do we convey to the audience that we know these candidates are not equal in terms of their relationship to the truth? How do we convey to the audience that Trump is, in some ways, quite dangerous?”
Trump still garners a significant amount of support from voters, causing Rather to wonder, “Have we moved into a post-truth political era, where the truths don’t matter, the facts don’t matter?”
Stelter isn’t willing to go that far yet.
“We are only in a post-truth age if we all individually allow this to be a post-truth age,” he said. “And I don’t think most people are there or want to be there.”
He continued: “There is this portion of the electorate, certainly, that has tuned out news and information. I think we’ve got to grapple with that, those are mostly Trump supporters that have tuned out traditional journalism, do not want to hear the fact-checks, do not believe the fact-checks. After this election, I think we’ve got to figure out ways to correct some of that.”
Dan Rather’s America airs Tuesdays at 10 a.m. ET on Radio Andy (Ch. 102).