Other presidents — all presidents, in fact — have grumbled aloud about their treatment by the journalists who cover them. But Donald Trump is different. For him, having the biggest microphone in the competition of ideas isn’t enough, so he sows doubt and mistrust about the people and institutions who report the truth about him. This has the (much-desired) effect of turning truth-telling into a battle of he-said, she-said. Who cares what the truth is, Trump seems to say. The more important question is, Who’s winning?
Calling us “fake” and the “enemy of the people,” Trump “has taken what has been a longtime Republican complaint about media bias in the mainstream and amped it up by a thousand,” the New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg has said.
This may explain why the news media are the bogeymen of virtually every Trump rally in his never-ending campaign. This was true in 2016, and it’s true now. Some of Trump’s most, uh, spirited supporters seem to interpret his words as an invitation to heckle, jeer or even intimidate journalists at these rallies. Some reporters on the receiving end have said they worry that the intense hostility could one day turn violent.
We’ve all seen video of some of these clashes — as a refresher, click on any of the links above. But I suspect that a 360 video of such an encounter might provide a truer sense of what it feels like to be verbally attacked while you’re trying to do your job.
An ideal field test would provide a 360 view of a minute or two of a Trump rally, from the perspective of the traveling press corps. Being immersed in the experience would allow a viewer to choose where to look — and where to listen. This field test could include the use of directional microphones, with one pointed at Trump at the lectern and another pointed at the hecklers. This would allow the volume of each to be raised and lowered depending on where the viewer is looking, providing a sense for the distraction created by the hecklers.
In the modern world of self-selected media, I don’t propose that an immersive experience like this one would change hearts and minds on any measurable scale. And I’ll readily admit that there are many classes of people more worthy of empathy than journalists. But I suspect there’s a sizable number of Americans who are on the fence about whom to believe, and who have begun to caricature or even dehumanize reporters in their minds. An immersive video that gives viewers the sense of being there might get through to some of these people.
A survey would seem to be the best way to measure the effectiveness of such a video experience. Respondents could be asked about their sentiments toward reporters and their work before and after experiencing the video. The results could be further parsed by sorting the results according to where viewers spent most of their time looking and listening.