By Kim Strelke
Which came first? President Donald J. Trump’s outrage against the media, or the public’s mistrust of the media?
Distinguished media lawyer Bruce W. Sanford will discuss the relationship between the public and the press under the Trump presidency in SMU’s 18th annual Rosine Smith Sammons Lecture in Media Ethics.
“Trusting the Media in the Age of Trump” takes place at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 17 in Caruth Auditorium in the Owen Arts Center. All students, faculty and community members are welcome free of charge and tickets are not required. The Owen Arts Center is located at 6101 Bishop Blvd.
Trust in the media has dropped significantly in the past year, said Sanford in a recent email interview. He said his lecture will address whether this was a result of Trump’s influence or a pre-existing condition.
“President Trump’s criticism of the press is less a cause than a reflection of the public’s anger,” Sanford said. “The president discovered that the biggest applause line in his campaign speeches was always his attack on the press.”
Sanford is a partner in the D.C. law firm BakerHostetler and also serves as the general counsel fo the Society of Professional Journalists. As a lawyer, he has represented nearly all of the major media outlets, including well-known clients such as Fox Television, ABC, NBC, Breitbart News, National Geographic, the Hearst Corporation and Random House. He helped President Bill Clinton negotiate a book deal, and represented such noteworthy figures as first lady Barbara Bush and the writer John Grisham.
Sanford said in his interview that TV hosts and political analysts attempt to gain viewership and advertisers by creating individual brands. Many hosts and pundits produce content from the far left or the far right and expound extreme viewpoints.
This content is so polarized that important national problems can get overlooked, said Sanford, who also authored the book Don’t Shoot the Messenger: How Our Growing Hatred of the Media Threatens Free Speech for All of Us.
“My Sammons talk this year combines stories from Washington journalists covering the Trump White House with a focus on the consequences for all of us if public confidence in the press does not improve,” he said.
The Sammons Lecture Series is presented by SMU’s Division of Journalism in the Meadows School of the Arts and funded by an endowment from the Rosine Foundation Fund of the Communities Foundation of Texas. The lecture is named after Rosine Smith Sammons, who graduated from SMU in the 1920s with a degree in journalism.
Last year’s lecture included a panel featuring Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Dallas Morning News editor Mike Wilson and CBS 11 journalist Steve Pickett. The panelists discussed real time media coverage of the events that took place in Dallas on July 7, 2016, when four Dallas police officers and a DART officer were killed.