Saturday 3 February 2018

Transcript of 'Newswatch' interview with Nick Bryant, 2nd February 2018

Below is a full transcript of Samira Ahmed's interview with Nick Bryant on this week's Newswatch:

Samira Ahmed: On Tuesday night, Donald Trump addressed a joint session of the United States Congress in his first State of the Union address, just over 12 months since he took office. To say it's been a newsworthy and controversial first year as President is something of an understatement. 
Jon Sopel: The weightiest issues on the planet were discussed at Donald Trump's inaugural address, but what the president is in a white rage about are suggestions that the crowds for him weren't as big as they were for Barack Obama eight years ago, even though the evidence is incontrovertible. 
Nick Bryant: Many people around the world will be saddened and sickened to see the president of the United States appearing to validate tweets from a far-right group. Ten months into this unorthodox and provocative presidency, Donald Trump still has the capacity to shock. 
Donald Trump: And it wasn't until I became a politician that I realised how nasty, how mean, how vicious and how fake the press can be as the cameras start going off in the background. 
That antagonistic relationship with the press has been caused, in the opinion of some Newswatch viewers, by relentlessly negative reporting on the part of much of the media, including the BBC. Here's Paul McTigue:
Paul McTigue: I do not feel that the BBC gives balanced coverage of the US President. Admittedly, Mr. Trump is a divisive political figure, but every day seems to bring fresh insults and smears, in an attempt to right the 'wrong' of his election.
Others detect what they feel is an obsession with reporting on President Trump, bordering on an addiction. For Tim Weston, "The overwhelming majority of his nightly tweets and daily orations are populist bluster, only relevant to and resonating with his core support base in America. The time has come for the BBC - and other news outlets - to wean themselves off Trump;" And Gillian Jones agreed there was too much Trump trivia on air: "Do I care about his medical, and is it important that I know he takes a pill to keep his wig on? Please, BBC, stop it. Yours, seriously Trumped Out" Well, one person who has spent much of the past year following Donald Trump's presidency is Nick Bryant, based in New York but joining us today from Washington. Welcome to Newswatch, Nick. Trump has been called 'The Great Disrupter'  and one wonders how much of a disrupter he's been to the way the BBC reports from America. 
Nick Bryant: Well, I don't know. I don't think we've ever had a president who has given such a volume of news at such a high velocity. It begins very early in the morning, as it did today with a presidential tweet, quite an extraordinary presidential tweet this time, attacking the leadership of the FBI and the justice department. And often, it ends the day with a midnight tweet which can be equally extraordinary, as was the case a few weeks ago when he announced that he wasn't going to be coming to London. 
Samira Ahmed: Well, you've dived straight into one of the issues that viewers do bring up which is Trump's use of Twitter and, I must say, Newswatch viewers do regularly complain that the BBC, they feel, jumps to broadcast every tweet and that you should be far more judicious in what you choose to report. Have they got a point? 
Nick Bryant: I promise you, we don't publish every single tweet and we don't react to every single tweet either. But, of course, Twitter has become a primary medium to communicate with the American people and, of course, a lot of his tweets are incredibly newsworthy. He has announced policy on Twitter, like the ban on transgender people in the US military. That took his defence chiefs by surprise. A lot of his diplomacy has been conducted on Twitter. So when a tweet is newsworthy, we report it and, obviously, some of his retweets are newsworthy as well...
Samira Ahmed: Absolutely.
Nick Bryant: was the case when he retweeted Britain First. 
Samira Ahmed: Yes. One of the main viewer criticisms we also get is that coverage is too focused on him personally and negatively and you mentioned his diplomacy via Twitter, well, the policy with North Korea arguably seems to be bearing fruit. You know, the economy is doing well and has the BBC been too negative? 
Nick Bryant: I think we've made the point in recent times that it does seem that that tough stance towards North Korea has borne fruit. You know, you've had the North Koreans taking part in the Winter Olympics, for instance. I think at the year anniversary, we stressed how well the economy is doing right now. Look, I think it's really important to tell all of the story of the Trump administration and, often, you get a very different view in Washington, where I am today, from New York or elsewhere in the country. And there, there are an awful lot of people who think that what Donald Trump is doing is absolutely great and they sent him to Washington to disrupt Washington and he's doing just that and I think that's an important part of the story. 
Samira Ahmed: From the point of view of British viewers, perhaps it's unfair to ask you, sometimes they feel that Trump and what he's doing or saying or what his supporters are saying or thinking gets an awful lot of airtime, and I know that your job is to provide news and you don't make all the editorial decisions, but do you get a sense that Trump is maybe sort of taking over the news agenda more than he should because he is, dare I say it, entertaining? 
Nick Bryant: Look, I think that's one of the great challenges of covering Donald Trump is that he does tend to set the agenda an awful lot with these early morning tweets. I do think there is, you know, legitimacy in the criticism that, you know, we can be a little bit too reactive to some of the tweets and that we should be setting our own agenda and following our own path. And we do try and do that. You know, one of the things that I've been keen to do recently is to show the effectiveness of the Trump administration in many ways. It has set about a very ambitious deregulatory programme and, in many ways, it has achieved that. 
Samira Ahmed: OK. Trump has seemed to come across as more conciliatory in tone in recent weeks. In Davos, the State of the Union address. Is there a sense that the BBC might have failed to recognise that in its reporting of him? 
Nick Bryant: I don't think so. Watching the coverage of the State of the Union address, I think the point was made, Trump did make some conciliatory moves on immigration. But at the same time, I mean, that speech was a highly partisan speech. It's going to be a highly political and a highly partisan year because the mid-term elections are coming in November when the make-up of Congress will be decided again, and the politicisation of virtually everything is going to be a feature of this year. 
Samira Ahmed: On the media, President Trump, it's very clear, has been very aggressive towards the news media, the ones he doesn't like or appears not to like, including the BBC. How have you been dealing with that? Practically, how does it affect you? 
Nick Bryant: Donald Trump almost declared war on the media from the very get-go. His initial sort of onslaught was about the media's reporting of that inauguration crowd. You probably remember that on the first full day of his presidency. He's described the media as 'enemies of the people', he keeps on saying that a lot of the media is fake news. My view is that it's a mistake for the media to sort of declare war back. I just think we should be doing our jobs and we should just be reporting on the facts and we shouldn't be drawn into that kind of combat and that kind of battle. We should just do what we have always done with presidents of the United States, whether they are Democrat or whether they are Republican. 
Samira Ahmed: Nick Bryant, thank you so much. 


  1. LOL funny! I love the idea that the BBC thinks an example of Trump's policy "bearing fruit" is North Korean participation in the Winter Olympics. That's really going to reassure Hawaiians isn't it?

    And what's with Samira Ahmed mentioning the US economy is doing well? She better watch out - that's the sort of thing that can get you sacked from the BBC. You'll noticed that Bryant did NOT echo that point. The BBC are desperately hoping for bad economic news - Katty Kay was straight on the fall in the Dow...retweeting all the bleak assessments from her media mates.

  2. Dear BBC,

    "Has BBC reporting of President Trump's first year in power been too critical, and too obsessed with trivia?"

    Here, fixed it for you, with obligatory BBC #questionasaheadline homage:

    "Has BBC reporting become too obsessive on betes noire to the point of derangement?"


    Saddened and sickened, and once banned for 2 years for asking questions, of Herefordshire


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.