NPR's Scott Detrow on News Analysis in the Trump Era

Jun 2, 2017

It’s hard to overstate how irregular the news cycle is at the moment. With new allegations about the Trump Administration’s Russian ties coming out seemingly on the hour - it can be difficult to make sense of what’s really going on, even for journalists.

But for NPR’s Scott Detrow, that’s just all in a day’s work. He is a congressional reporter and the co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast, where he regularly sits down with other journalists to talk about what’s going on in Washington.

"It feels like we've been at that pace in the final week or so of the election, nonstop since the election with very little breaks - if any. And there's just no sign that that's going to slow down any time soon."

"It feels like we’ve been at that pace in the final week or so of the election, nonstop since the election with very little breaks - if any. And there’s just no sign that that’s going to slow down any time soon," Detrow explains.

In response to much of the reporting on the Russia scandal, the Trump Administration has been decrying the use of anonymous sources, which played a central part in many of the reports. Detrow says this tactic is pretty standard. "To complain about anonymous sources is kind of the first step that any president or any public official will take when they don't like the news that's happening," he says. 

The term anonymous can carry some negative connotations, as though a person who decides to remain anonymous is engaging in surreptitious behavior. But Detrow explains that reporters, regardless of what they're covering, often use anonymous sources in situations where going on the record could be dangerous for the person disclosing information. 

"They're people who work within the administration, work within whatever you're covering who, for one motivation or another - and it's always different and there's always some sort of motivation - want to get information out to reporters," he says. 

"There are different camps within the White House who are at war with each other and leaking information on each other that create a lot of these news stories."

What makes the current White House a bit different from previous administrations is the tension among members of President Trump's inner-circle. 

"There are different camps within the White House who are at war with each other and leaking information on each other that create a lot of these news stories," Detrow says. "You have the Jared Kushner wing of the White House, you have the Steve Bannon wing of the White House. They often don't get along with each other and are providing this information to the reporters who cover the White House."

So while Donald Trump may decry the use of these sources, they are often members of his own staff. "This is something that the Trump Administration does itself, to its advantage, and has done to it, to its disadvantage," he says. 

"Lawmakers from both parties take the idea that Russia tried to influence the election incredibly seriously. The only high profile elected official who's out there saying, 'This is all a distraction,' is the president."

While Detrow believes the president has had some success "distorting the reality on a lot of things," he also says the impact of his tweets seems to be deteriorating. When it comes to the president's claims that the bulk of the reporting on the Russia scandal is baseless or fake news, it seems most prominent politicians (regardless of party affiliation) disagree.   

"As to the idea that this is fake news, in general, the media is not making up this story... we're not making up the fact that the FBI has an on-going investigation into whether or not anyone on Trump's campaign colluded with Russia," he explains.

"There's no clear answer on whether or not that's the case, but there is an active investigation. There's an active Senate investigation, there's an active House investigation, and lawmakers from both parties take the idea that Russia tried to influence the election incredibly seriously. The only high profile elected official who's out there saying, 'This is all a distraction,' is the president," Detrow continues.