Opinion

Trump’s Tweets? Keep ’em coming

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The more I read about the relationship of the White House press corps with recent US Presidents, the more I appreciate President Trump’s use of Tweets to communicate with Americans.

I am halfway through reading tv newsman David Brinkley’s 1995 “A Memoir.” Mr. Brinkley was one of the American newsmen working at the birth of television. Not just television news broadcasting, but the actual invention of television. Brinkley started as a newspaper reporter in his home state of North Carolina, when Americans primarily got their news from daily newspapers: a morning edition and an afternoon edition.

Whatever else daily newspaper reporting was or wasn’t — by today’s standards it arrived at a snail’s pace. Newsreel footage shown in movie theaters before feature films, was America’s primary source of seeing news film.

Radio news picked up the news delivery pace. Then in the 1940s, someone invented a way to send and receive moving pictures with sound. In a short time America’s broadcast networks agreed on a standard method for sending and receiving tv signals. The US federal government accepted the tv network standardization, and eventually tv became a popular way of news reporting.

Mr. Brinkley, in his memoir, writes about personally covering news conferences of three US Presidents: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy.

President Roosevelt (FDR), according to Brinkley, neither liked nor trusted reporters. Brinkley writes:

“Roosevelt being the social snob he was, he frequently berated reporters covering the White House at his press conferences…. He made no attempt to hide his opinion that we were all poorly educated.., and so we could not possibly know enough or understand enough to report to the American people accurately and fairly about the activities of their president, a C student at Harvard. As a way around the press, Roosevelt resorted to…his fireside chats, delivered from a tiny studio in the White House having no fireside. He felt it was the only way he could reach the people directly, without reporters — and their publishers he always detested — twisting and distorting his views,” wrote Brinkley.

FDR died prior to the rise of tv news. His fireside chats were radio broadcasts.

I’ve read elsewhere of how FDR, meeting with reporters in the White House Oval Office, forbade them to quote him directly without his express permission.

FDR’s successor, President Harry Truman, gave reporters more leeway. But neither President Truman nor his successor, President Eisenhower, held White House press conferences like the press conferences with which we’re familiar.

Brinkley said Eisenhower’s press secretary, James C. Hagerty, was “among the first to see [tv’s] political potential.” After Mr. Hagerty’s “long and tedious negotiations with the networks,” President Eisenhower, agreed to tv broadcasting his press conferences. But, writes Brinkley, “[n]ot broadcast live; that was never even considered. Too risky. The [US] president talking to the nations and people of the world, talking without notes or prior discussions? Impossible. Suppose he made a mistake?”

Eisenhower didn’t grow up with television. He was uncomfortable with that medium.

By contrast, David Brinkley says John F. Kennedy was the first US President to grow up with tv. Kennedy “took [tv] for granted and assumed from the beginning that his news conferences would be on live television, carried around the world…. Presidents had always preferred to talk about history instead of news. But not Kennedy. He dealt with any question…, a new experience for the reporters, and we loved it,” wrote Brinkley.

President Trump, comfortable with all media platforms, including the internet, is a step beyond his predecessors in communications. With his Tweets, especially, he communicates immediately, directly, unfiltered, uncensored, with Americans and the world.

That intimacy, that immediacy, makes some people antsy, but not me. Is every presidential Tweet a home run? No. But keep ‘em coming, Mr. President, keep ‘em coming.

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited AsMaineGoes.com and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.

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