Reporting on an Unprecedented President

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“The First 100 Days of Trump” is an ongoing online project in the Guardian, in which journalists from all around the world are collaborating to report on the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency, a task that Guardian reporters say has been a challenge for the journalistic community at large.

“One of the big questions with any presidency is ‘to what extent do the promises that the candidate make have whenever he takes over the presidency?’” said Sabrina Siddiqui, political reporter for the Guardian, “The idea was to try and visualize some of the key characteristics that are uncharacteristic with former presidents.”

The main page of this project on the Guardian’s website is headlined by a dark blue infographic dominated by a close-up image of President Donald Trump’s infamous sneer. The infographic -created by Design Director Sam Morris- is interactive, enabling the user to slide across it and view different statistics such as “meters of the wall built,” or “number of tweets,” that track the President’s actions. In the aftermath of the President’s most recent twitter tirade, readers can pan to the category “People, places and things recently insulted,” to see a photo of Former President Barack Obama with his arms spread wide, grinning broadly and wearing a pair of sunglasses and a lifejacket.

“Normally, when it comes to news, comedy has to be light and only for specific subjects. This was different though,” Morris said in an email, “The Trump presidency has been as erratic and random as we predicted. It felt appropriate to represent that visually.”

When asked if she felt that introducing a comedic element interfered with the newspaper’s objectivity, Siddiqui said that humor is a natural part of reporting on a president, and that journalists should always be trying to find another way to tell the news. “We have a bipartisan record of making fun of politicians,” she said.

The substance of the reporting, however, is not satirical. The project publishes daily articles that report the goings on of the Trump administration. Popular topics include President Trump’s possible ties to Russia, executive immigration orders and the potential repeal of Obamacare.

According to Siddiqui, a key part of the project has been learning together through the collaboration process. “Everyone’s figuring out how to cover this new administration and I don’t think anyone’s figured that out yet,” she said, “It goes back to the notion that these collaborations allow us to work together as a team and cover all aspects of the presidency. We all share the burden together.”

Morris also spoke about the lack of precedent for how to report on the current administration.

“The aim of the project was to capture how unfocused and irregular the Trump presidency is/would be. We knew we wanted to have the text updates fairly early as they would be the meat of the piece,” he said, “However, given how short those updates are, we needed some way of capturing the miscellany –the tweets, the outbursts at celebrities, the nights spent at Mar-a-Lago. Given Trump’s reluctance to verify statistics this seemed like a perfect way of tracking his time in the White House.”

The Guardian is not the only publication offering a series reporting on the first 100 days of the presidency. One term of a presidency is typically four years. Why then are so many media outlets reporting on this specific amount of time?

“You often hear candidates espouse an agenda for the first 100 days, it goes back to the idea that most presidents don’t meet those promises” said Siddiqui, “Ours goes beyond that and tries to offer a bit of a humorous take.”

The project features the design work of Morris, and text contributions from more than 20 journalists from around the globe. Some of the project’s photographs come from Guardian photographers, but the majority are borrowed from other publications or the public domain.

 

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