Trump, fake news and the ‘crisis’ of American political reporting?

Since Donald Trump’s election, public concern has intensified about 'alternative facts', his self-proclaimed 'war' on journalists, and the prevalence of fake news in a ‘post-truth’ era. Not only does this create confusion about what is real and what is not, but trust in news media is falling in many countries including the US and Australia. This is compounded by the fact that the internet makes it easier for misinformation, whether deliberate or not, to spread. Inaccurate reporting has consequences for news media's role in democracies to provide a well-informed citizenry and critical scrutiny of political elites.

In this climate, powerful figures like Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are outwardly hostile to journalists and mainstream reporting processes. US National Intelligence alleged that Russia created fake news to manipulate the 2016 Presidential election and Trump further fuelled public mistrust by calling journalists “the most dishonest human beings on earth”. If the current President of the United States does not respect professional journalists, is American political reporting in ‘crisis’? And what are the implications of ‘fake news’ and loss of trust in the media for other democracies like Australia? To answer these questions the University of Melbourne welcomes an insider of the American political press corps, highly distinguished op-ed columnist with The Washington Post, Dana Milbank.

Dana Milbank has been a nationally syndicated op-ed columnist with The Washington Post since 2005. Generally appearing 4 times a week, his opinion column is the most popular on the Post’s website and also runs in 275 other newspapers.