Unfair Trump criticism is a bad look for journalism

Melania’s shoe kerfuffle and Murray’s sign are examples of what journalists and the political class calls “optics,” a metaphorical snapshot of how something looks. Many reporters have been more focused on the appearance of Trump’s response to Hurricane Harvey than its substance. When it comes to his handling of the first major natural disaster of his presidency, reporters have accused him both of ignoring the optics and being obsessed with them. This determination to criticize Trump’s response to Harvey, no matter what it is, suggests Murray’s scrawl is less tongue-in-cheek than he might have intended. Political commentators might want to consider the optics of their own analysis and whether preconceptions may be skewing their reactions…

Ultimately, the goal of good optics is to communicate the truth about a situation. Trump’s widespread unpopularity with the press will mean his genuine moments may not make it into the fourth estate’s recounting. That dynamic suggests that his rallies and Twitter account, through which he speaks directly to the public, will continue to be a major part of his communications strategy. Trump is not the only one the American people are watching, however. Reporters need to remember that unfair criticism makes them part of the story rather than the objective observers their craft demands, and it also undermines their credibility with their audience.