Alumni Newsletter

DO alumnus and Tully Center Director Roy Gutterman shares tips and predictions for a free press under Trump

Frankie Prijatel | Senior Staff Photographer

Professor Roy Gutterman, a Class of '93 D.O. alumnus and director of the Tully Center for Free Speech, is "a little nervous" about how journalists will be treated under President Trump.

For Roy Gutterman (‘93), President Donald Trump’s four years in the White House are hard to predict. But Gutterman is sure of one thing: For journalists, it’s going to be a rough and difficult time.

Gutterman, the director of the Tully Center for Free Speech at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a Daily Orange alumnus, is worried about Trump’s targeting of the press.

“It’s not unusual for a politician or a candidate to dislike the press,” Gutterman said. “But he’s taken it to a different level, where he has criticized or singled out individuals.”

Trump routinely antagonized reporters along the 2016 campaign trail, blacklisted media outlets and — since winning the election — has continued to attack journalists and news organizations.

“I’m a little nervous,” Gutterman said.

Gutterman was The D.O.’s news editor and a member of the Board of Directors in 1991, the year the paper became financially independent from Syracuse University.

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Roy Gutterman

Courtesy of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

He later worked as a reporter covering local and state government, among other things, at The Cleveland Plain Dealer before attending the SU College of Law. He graduated in 2000.

Gutterman, an associate professor of newspaper and online journalism, began teaching at Newhouse in 2005 and became the director of the Tully Center in 2010.

“I love it,” he said, referring to the center. “It gives me an opportunity to talk about and advocate on free speech and First Amendment values.”

After years as a journalist, law expert and press freedom advocate, Gutterman now has advice for the reporters who will be covering politics and the White House during the Trump presidency. And, while the future is still up in the air, he lists some potential effects Trump could have on the press.

A journalist’s guide to the Trump presidency

Develop a thick skin and do not be afraid to push, Gutterman said. Journalists have to be prepared for confrontation and criticism.

Gutterman noted many journalists covering Trump will have to look for information outside of traditional press conferences. If the last few months are any indication, Trump’s media opportunities may be more sporadic than those held by past presidents.

Reporters will have to develop new sources inside and outside the White House. Gutterman used Congress as an example of a location of potential sources.

Journalists will have to keep scouring public records as well.

“Lots of good reporters dove into the public record papertrail involving Trump,” Gutterman said. “There’s some really great stories about things like that.”

Cultivating and building trust with sources is also key.

Some predictions for the press

Trump’s rhetoric and actions could send the wrong message to other countries, Gutterman said. Journalists could feel a backlash across the world, with their own governments looking to the president as an example.

“The United States has pretty much been a beacon for free press rights for a long time,” Gutterman said. “And we see a leader openly hostile and menacing and critical of the press, you’ll see worse treatment of reporters in other places in the world.”

With local and daily newspapers laying off reporters, he noted there is a coverage gap in the U.S. where state and local governments are not being properly reported on, and Trump may exacerbate that problem.

Another potential problem is a trickle-down effect, where more state and local politicians in the United States begin to treat reporters harshly as well. Gutterman used New Jersey governor Chris Christie as an example of a politician taking a page out of Trump’s book. Christie’s tough-man persona was created in part by going after reporters.

Gutterman said some of the trickle-down effect could be more subtle than yelling at a reporter during a press conference, however.

Denying Freedom of Information Act requests or limiting access to records, public meetings and places could be other examples of other effects of Trump’s press relations.

Gutterman emphasized that, in the end, it’s still very hard to predict what will happen during the Trump presidency. But he wasn’t optimistic.

“It will definitely not be an easy four years.”

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