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Column

Eye of the tiger

Donald Trump's relationship with the media has always been uneasy, but are we intentionally rocking the ship?

Imagine you woke up one morning to find a tiger in your garden. You have no idea how it got there or where it came from, and yet, there just so happens to be a black and orange beast lounging on your back lawn.

So, what do you do?

Well, knowing that this tiger could gobble you up without breaking a sweat, and acknowledging this feline is probably quite frightened of you too, I figure you have two options – be proactive or play it cool.

If you go the proactive route, you might call some of your neighbours to help you wrangle and overpower the wild beast. Or if you owned a gun, you may consider trying to shoot it. But should either of these ideas not go according to plan, someone could get hurt and you'll almost certainly have a pretty annoyed kitty on your hands.

By playing it cool you try to live with the situation. As long as it's not bothering you, you don't bother it. This may seem like a safe enough strategy except for the fact that you still have yourself a carnivorous visitor hanging out in your back garden.

Whatever you decide, I think it's safe to say none of us would intentionally try to anger or upset the tiger. What would be the point?

Trump card

When I heard the news that America had chosen Donald Trump as its 45th president, I was dumfounded, and, to be honest, rather disappointed. And almost immediately, I thought of this analogy. The world has awoken to discover a tiger in our global back garden. So what do we do about it? Well, if you're certain members of the mainstream media, you pull its tail. Hard.

Please don't get me wrong − I am by no means a Trump supporter. I loathe much of what he says and does and what he stands for. And as a member of the media, I believe it's our duty to call power players to task when their comments or actions are unacceptable.

Dumping a chunk of unproven information on the public isn't "the job of reporters in 2017", it's sloppy journalism.

But, to me, some of what has ensued only seems to have made the tiger, and the entire situation, even more hostile. I'm by no means suggesting the media should shy away from upsetting the proverbial tigers of the world. I'm just asking if it's possible that many members of the media have become so fixated on how potentially dangerous this tiger could be that they're actually letting him overpower them.

Can a tiger change his stripes?

Take for example, what happened when Trump made his first press appearance since winning the election. Perhaps feeling a little sheepish that he'd proven them wrong by triumphing at the polls, the media sat before America's new commander in chief, divided.

This rift was formed in part because Buzzfeed had published a salacious dossier containing unverified claims about the president-elect and his relations with Russian officials.**

What makes Buzzfeed's decision to disseminate this information so problematic is the fact that it did so under the guise of being "transparent"; claiming it wanted to give the US public the opportunity make up their own minds about allegations. "Publishing this dossier reflects how we see the job of reporters in 2017," Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith wrote of the decision. Tsk, tsk Mr Smith, I beg to differ.

Distributing a provocative document that you admittedly cannot confirm isn't transparent, it's totally irresponsible. Dumping a chunk of unproven information on the public isn't "the job of reporters in 2017", it's sloppy journalism.

And giving people the opportunity to "make up their own minds" seems an awfully convenient justification when one considers how publishing sensational tabloid fodder about prostitutes and golden showers boosts Web traffic.

One of the greatest ironies of the entire situation is the curious symbiosis within the media and Trump's tempestuous relationship. Throughout his campaign, Trump was quick to criticise the press, but he has arguably received more media attention than any other presidential candidate in history. Similarly, for the media, there's no denying that stories about Trump's latest antics are eye-catching and attract readers.

And so to go back to the analogy: if we are to imagine we've woken up to find a tiger in our back garden, are we trying to make the most of the scenario or are we intentionally tugging on his tail?

** It's important to point out that CNN also published a story claiming US intelligence officials were in possession of a dossier containing sensitive information about Trump. It chose not to divulge the contents of the dossier, because the information was unverified, and reported only on the dossier's existence.

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