Trump-Fake News-Public Relations-The Media And Trust Are All Intertwined

by admin on February 22, 2017



There’s a new paradigm in Presidential media relations. Why?

How honest are we in government, business and the media?

Bannon feels that the media will take any side but Trump’s, thus there is little to nothing to gain by playing nice.

No, media relation’s rules haven’t changed for the rest of us.


Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of supervising award-winning media relations, radio and television; over fifty national and regional awards. Post-Master’s Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University. Author, “Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization,” available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon at


There’s a new paradigm in Presidential media relations. It’s simultaneously interesting, frightening and hard to understand. It’s breaking every rule in the book.

This is a tough article to write. To understand what’s happening means examining a variety of factors related to trust. What Trump seems to be saying is that everyone, including the media, is less than honest. Playing fairly seems to be the road to defeat.

For the Record

Truth be known, I’m not happy with how President Trump addresses the nation or the media. You would think that the President of the United States would have a better handle on the facts, and an enhanced sense of media relations.

The president is coming off as a bit of a wag, and the media is having a field day with the criticism.

It’s getting hard to watch the evening news; some networks are spending a full ten minutes (a lifetime in television news) leading with the Trump missteps of the day.

My social media pages are filled with posts from both pro and anti-Trump factions proclaiming jihad. Yours is too.

For the record, I did not vote for Trump or Hillary. I sat out this election for the first time.

Is Trump Wrong?

But it does get me to thinking, how did we get to this point? Has politics and media relations fundamentally changed?

A better question, “Is Trump wrong?”

President Trump won the election against all odds. No one expected him to win. He proved political commenters wrong “after” telling them exactly how he would win. He did it his way and created a political revolution.

Republicans won the White House, both houses of Congress and thirty-three out of fifty governorships, see Daily Kos. He has the undying loyalty of the working class throughout America, thus challenging the Democratic Party for its heart, soul and reason for existence.

Success doesn’t sound wrong to me. I may not be comfortable with the President’s approach, but that doesn’t make him amiss as to advancing his agenda.

If the issue is purposeful mistruths and the presidency, are others any better? Is purposeful dishonesty the new normal? If so, how did we get here?

The Media’s New War

There are a variety of journalism code of ethics demanding honesty, accuracy and fairness from reporters. Yet even the mainstream media is getting fed up with journalists feeding the anti-Trump frenzy, see Anti-Trump Media for an example. See The Problem of Two Unreliable Narrators: Trump Versus the Media for another. Criticism is emerging in mainstream newspapers throughout the country.

Thus we have a collision between two powerful forces in America with both dependent on credibility to accomplish their goals, with both having considerable issues with trust per polling data.

Both seem mired in the mud with little chance of emerging unscathed. We have Steve Bannon declaring war on the media, and it seems that journalists have pledged to do the same, see New York Times.

How Did We Get to This Point?

If going to war with the media is the new normal, if blatant mistruths are now part of the political fabric, how did we get here?

We in public and media relations do not rank well in polls as to trust. It’s the same for government and a variety of institutions.

The inference is that we all engage in misrepresentations. Many in the public would suggest that we are all routinely less than honest.

And that, I believe, is the starting point for Steve Bannon and the Trump administration.

They truly believe that they are at war with the truth-stretching, Hillary loving media. They don’t see a downside in attacking the media, thus violating every tenant of media relations.

This is shocking stuff. If the starting point is the public’s distrust of the media and everyone else, what does Trump have to lose?

Are We in Public Relations, Media, Government and Business Any Better?


Trust in the media is at an all-time low, “Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32% saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. This is down eight percentage points from last year,” see Media-Trust-Gallup.

Public Relations

“Advertising Practitioners” are at the bottom of the barrel when specific jobs are polled for “Honesty and Ethical Standards,” barley above car salespeople and members of Congress, see PR-Trust-Gallup


Confidence in institutions per Gallup puts “Big Business” immediately above Congress at the bottom of the list, below two other bottom dwellers, newspapers and television news, see Business-Trust-Gallup


During my thirty-five years in government media relations, I saw firsthand as to how government executives and advocates stretched the truth to the point of dishonesty. I saw how government executives felt comfortable misleading the media.

Having said that, the majority of my government peers were honest, credible people. Most took pride in their jobs and were dedicated public servants. But there are simply too many government executives and their advocates who routinely stretch the truth.

The public’s trust in the federal government continues to be at historically low levels. Only 19% of Americans today say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always” (3%) or “most of the time” (16%).

Fewer than three-in-ten Americans have expressed trust in the federal government in every major national poll conducted since July 2007 – the longest period of low trust in government in more than 50 years. In 1958, when the American National Election Study first asked this question, 73% said they could trust the government just about always or most of the time, see Government-Trust-Pew.

Trump’s Assumptions

It’s my opinion that Steve Bannon understands that most Americans mistrust their institutions, so factual statements are now secondary, and appeals to emotions primary.

Thus you can say that increases in violent crime and homicides are at an all time high throughout recent decades (untrue) because it feeds into American concerns about crime being at an all time high (true), see Crime in America.Net.

Bannon feels that the media will take any side but Trump’s, thus there is little to nothing to gain by playing nice or worrying about facts. He also believes that advocacy groups will do the same by engaging in purposeful distortions of anything Trump does.

This approach attacks every media relation’s principle ever taught. I wrote an article criticizing Trump for his media policy when he was down in the polls, yet he won see, LeonardSipes.Com

Have the Rules Changed For the Rest of Us?

That’s the perplexing question and I fear that institutions following Trump’s assumptions will run into a buzz saw of negative public relations.

If there are any rules left, it’s the acknowledgment that what applies to politics (however bazaar the new rules are) do not pertain to the rest of us.

People expect politicians to be dishonest and there is a tolerance for them that do not apply beyond that arena.

I believe that all of us in government, business, the media and public relations are treading on very thin ice. Our world depends on credibility, trust and confidence.

Newspapers are dying; the public is turning to digital sources for news. Beyond trusted brands, companies with bad PR do poorly. People think that public relations are synonymous with insincerity, thus they mistrust our efforts. Government can’t get the funds or support it needs to improve our lives.

No, the rules haven’t changed for the rest of us. They may have changed for Trump, they may have changed for politics, but if others believe that can emulate Trump, there’s a giant PR buzz saw waiting for them at the end of the day.

The new era in politics does not apply to the rest of us. We had better learn that lesson and improve on public trust before it’s too late.

For us in media, business, public relations and government, public trust is the very foundation of our success, or lack of attainment.

Fudging the truth may work for Trump in the short run, it may even be the new paradigm for presidential politics, but trust is the essential element for the rest of us.

Success With the Media

For more information on good organizational and media relations, see “Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization,” available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon at  Your reviews are appreciated.

See my website at

Contact me at


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: