‘Don’t let him use the press’: Guardian readers on how the media should cover Trump’s 2024 run

More than 3,000 readers responded to our callout, and urged a ‘less is more’ approach when reporting on the former president

Donald Trump’s announcement of a third run for the presidency has renewed a discussion in newsrooms on how best to cover the former president. That conversation is happening inside the Guardian, too.

Beginning with his 2016 campaign, much of the US media took to Trump like a moth to a flame, covering him like a celebrity – one whose propensity to espouse lies and conspiracy theories riveted audiences. But Trump proved an expert at manipulating that coverage, which often unwittingly amplified those same lies.

Trump’s 2024 campaign is undoubtedly news – he is, after all, a former president with a large following, who has left an indelible mark on American politics and is arguably the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2024. But that doesn’t mean we need to cover every utterance.

We asked Guardian readers for their views on how the press can strike a better balance between delivering newsworthy information while refraining from platforming Trump’s more damaging rhetoric.

We received more than 3,000 responses. Many readers argue, essentially, for a “less is more” approach to reporting on the former president. Not every tweet (should he resume tweeting), no matter how outlandish, is news, they say. Others called for caution when reporting his lies about election fraud in 2020. Many asked us to go easy on printing his photograph and to give equal time to other candidates.

Nine responses from readers are below.

‘Fewer stories with more substance, please’

“The media should cover Trump’s candidacy without photographs and tweets and the like – and without catchphrases. All of those things cause kneejerk reactions. I know we have shorter attention spans, but honestly, I am hungry for quietness, nuance, content, a little thoughtfulness in my day. If you feel like imagery is required, then be creative and let the graphic artists illustrate an idea.

“I think that should be the case for all candidates at this stage: fewer, more substantive stories about them all.” Nancy Aten, 63, progressive and Democratic, from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

‘Focus on fresh candidates that deserve more oxygen’

“Trump should be treated as a person running in an election, not a foregone conclusion nor a fascinating spectacle and certainly not a celebrity. The American media has so breathlessly covered each of Trump’s successive small and large leaps further into the absurd that it culminated in thousands of people genuinely believing they had a right to violently overthrow our most important seat of government with him as their king.

“I’m concerned about the air of this election being completely sucked up by Biden and Trump again when voters across the spectrum are ready for a new generation. Ron DeSantis is an interesting candidate, and I’m also interested in hearing about who the potential successors to Biden could be on the left. Who are the new compelling candidates that deserve platforming?” Shawn Martin, 31, architect, independent/Democratic, will always consider a split ticket, from San Diego, California

‘Don’t platform election 2020 fraud claims’

“The press should cover Trump minimally. Only if he is in a debate. No rallies, no social media posts or rambling/ranting spiels. Do not report anything he says about 2020 or fraudulent elections. No matter how ‘out there’ he goes, rein in the impulse to bleat about his latest nonsense.

Cover actual policy statements, debates and so on. Stick with strictly bare minimum reporting. There is no need to feed him.” Pam M, in her late 50s, nurse, moderate Republican, from Las Vegas, Nevada

‘Complete coverage of the Trump campaign’

“I’d like to see accurate, complete coverage of the Trump campaign with the same volume as competitors receive. More investigative journalism using every tool in the toolbox. When Trump or his campaign make assertions which are false this should be covered, but the truth must also be reported.

“The coverage should highlight the ongoing criminal and civil investigations and legal cases against Trump and his business. Simply put, maximize resources uncovering Trump’s past and present misbehaviors while eliminating uncritical reporting of Trump’s false assertions or hateful rhetoric. Democracy works best as a true competition of ideas and policies.” Joel Block, 74, retired, Democratic, from Orange county, California

‘A politicized press has polarized the public even more’

“The right balance would be equal balance on all relevant candidates. Don’t get into the perpetual habit of always displaying Mr Trump’s negatives. Those are already glaringly obvious. And it allows Trump to counter-attack the media as being biased and prejudiced against him. To his diehard minority base it merely enforces their belief that the media is the enemy of the people.

“In today’s world of course all media either leans towards one political spectrum or another, which has polarized the public even more. Try to return to a more balanced and fair reporting, less politicized viewpoints. Try to negate the sensational. Try to regain the public’s trust.” Ronald Wallis, retired postal carrier, leans Democratic, from Oregon City, Oregon

‘Less speculation, less sensationalism, better dialogue’

“Everyone I know is sick of the media giving voice to bullshit – on both sides. Think about it. Has sensationalizing and [constantly] putting Trump on the front page for the past six years, helped or harmed civil society and its issues? I believe press coverage during these years has helped normalize hate, lying, divisiveness and authoritarianism, delayed accountability and eroded morality. Doing more of this type of Trump coverage will be devastating. Don’t speculate ad nauseam. Unless you provide hard facts, and put pressure on both sides to find truth, you are playing into Trump’s hand. He loves all the attention, it enables him to manipulate the conversation.

“Personally, if I had to hear more about him, I’d like to know: what destruction has Trump caused in all his failed business dealings around the world? What destruction and sabotage have Trump policies caused, for instance, in South American partnerships, in immigration policies, human rights, our military, the national parks, postal service, infrastructure, and so on?

“The people that support Trump in our community – the majority – need to understand what they are supposedly fighting for. These are fundamentally good people who need to know that ‘liberals’ are not their enemy.” April, retired retail sector worker and environmental educator, Democratic, from Prescott, Arizona

‘The right balance on Trump is no balance at all’

“What is the right balance in covering Trump? Trump and Trumpism are a grave threat to democracy. The right balance is no balance whatsoever. His candidacy, let alone a re-election, will do further damage to our society, it can accomplish no good.

“The media have been bullied and manipulated by the political class into maintaining some sense of ‘balance’ in exchange for access, but the very notion of ‘balance’ is a loophole for power-obsessed demagogues to turn the media into their stenographers and personal publishers.” Aaron Barclay, 42, accountant, democratic socialist, from Chicago, Illinois

‘No soundbites, no pithy opinions, less drama’

“The media should cover Trump matter-of-factly. Pertinent information only that’s actually substantive. No soundbites. No pithy opinions. Just bare-bones. No dramatic reactions. Just keep it parked in neutral.

“If it isn’t newsworthy, leave it. If it is, just keep it simple. We don’t need commentary from a panel of journalists on their interpretation of every detail. Think Cronkite. My concern is that the media likes the titular drama of Trump.” Susan Goldsmith, 54, legal specialist, Republican, from Charleston, South Carolina

‘Don’t let Trump use the press’

“The press is in a hard spot with people like Trump who only seem concerned with manipulation the media to their advantage. Not every tweet or complaint is a headline. The war in Ukraine is a headline.

“Don’t let Trump or his allies use the press to hurt our country. Don’t give him free press for sensationalism. Cover where he’s campaigning and his policy platform – if he had one. Don’t give oxygen to lies or incitement that could trigger any dangerous responses. Cover him like you cover Marco Rubio, not like you cover [fill in Hollywood A-lister]. If he gets in trouble write it like he’s a no-name hack. If he has something positive to say, give him credit.” Brent Heckerman, 54, business innovator, Democratic, from Cincinnati, Ohio

‘Draw a clearer line between fact and opinion, return to civil debate’

“I like to think I am moderate in my views. The former president has not earned the right to broadcast his opinions in the media unless the information has been fact checked first. Lies and misinformation are terribly misleading and destructive. The enormous attention Trump has received, whether negative or positive, has helped him build momentum.

“Report factually, avoid sensational news when it has no merit. Stick to the job of reporting and clearly call out when what is stated is mere opinion and nothing more. Too many news stations are biased and very demeaning of the political party they dislike. Sarcasm, using slurs, lack of civility and disrespect have run rampant. Time to change course and set an example of what civil disagreement looks like.” Linda Pittman, 72, retired, Democratic, previously independent, from Incline Village, Nevada

Contributor

Guardian readers

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