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Donald Trump’s presidency was marked by angry attacks on journalists, an extraordinary ability to capture the media spotlight, a flood of disinformation from the White House, and bitter partisanship reflected in the media. Trump’s dysfunctional relationship with the press affected how the United States dealt with the crises of COVID-19, climate change, social unrest due to systemic racism, and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. But Trump’s troubled relationship with the press didn’t happen by chance.
Clash explores the political, economic, social, and technological forces that have shaped the relationship between U.S. presidents and the press during times of crisis. In addition to Trump’s presidency, Clash examines those of John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Some of these presidents faced military or international crises. Others were challenged by economic downturns or political scandals. And sometimes the survival of America’s system of government was at stake. By examining what happened between presidents and the press during these pivotal times, Clash helps us understand how we arrived at our current troubled state of affairs. It concludes with recommendations for strengthening the role the press plays in keeping presidents accountable.
About the Author
Jon Marshall is an associate professor at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University. He is the author of Watergate’s Legacy and the Press: The Investigative Impulse. His work has appeared in the New York Times, TheAtlantic.com, WashingtonPost.com, Christian Science Monitor, CBS News’ Public Eye, Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, and other venues.
"A brisk, authoritative American history from an intriguing angle."—Kirkus Reviews
"Marshall excels when he explains the role of technology in providing new challenges and opportunities for presidents and the media alike and when he describes turning points in the relationship and draws parallels between presidential tactics."—Lindsay M. Chervinsky, Washington Monthly
"Jon Marshall has produced a very useful and—especially considering the times in which we live—very perceptive and illuminating book."—Michael Murray, Gateway Journalism Review
“From Adams to Trump, from Lincoln to Obama, American presidents have had a symbiotic and adversarial relationship with the press. Jon Marshall’s carefully researched book takes us inside the hard-nosed reporting, the confrontations, calculations, and prevarications, to paint a picture of the often troubled connection between two of the most powerful forces in our country, our commander in chief and the sprawling news media, in moments of high tension. The result is a clearer understanding of this high-stakes, complex relationship that has consequences for every American.”—Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour
“Jon Marshall offers a compelling tutorial on the often tortured relationship between American presidents and the reporters who cover them. Clash is a must-read for anybody interested in the vital role of a free press in a democratic society.”—Jonathan Karl, chief Washington correspondent of ABC News and former president of the White House Correspondents’ Association
“Donald Trump didn’t start this war. In Clash Jon Marshall skillfully traces a fraught relationship from the republic’s earliest days. But his sobering message in this deeply reported book is that the financial strain and fragmentation of the news media and Trump’s willingness to embrace and repeat lies have presented an unprecedented challenge to journalists and democracy.”—Susan Page, Washington Bureau chief of USA Today and author of Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power
“Jon Marshall has produced a timely, well-researched exploration of how presidents from John Adams to Donald Trump have tried to suppress press scrutiny of their conduct in the White House. This is good reading for voters in assessing President Biden’s relationship with the news media and the American public.”—Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of the Washington Post and author of All About the Story: News, Power, Politics, and the Washington Post
“With Clash Jon Marshall continues to establish himself as a leading scholar of the nexus of journalism and presidential history. His focus illuminates the perennial awkward dance involving presidents and reporters each trying to lead as the other manages the changing tempo of technology, politics, personal idiosyncrasies, and American mores. Marshall is emerging as a stalwart defender of the First Amendment and engaging storyteller of the clashes between the press and the presidency.”—Tom Mascaro, author of Into the Fray: How NBC’s Washington Documentary Unit Reinvented the News