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The real danger in Trump’s ‘dishonest and corrupt media awards’

United States President Donald J. Trump makes remarks to the media as he departs the White House in Washington, DC to participate in the FBI National Academy graduation ceremony in Quantico, Virginia on Friday, December 15, 2017. Credit: Ron Sachs / CNP - NO WIRE SERVICE ' Photo by: Ron Sachs/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Next week, President Donald J. Trump may announce “the most dishonest and corrupt media awards of the year,” per one of his tweets Sunday evening.

Then again, he may not, according to Northeastern journalism professor Dan Kennedy.

“I would be very surprised if Trump is actually going to be handing out actual statuettes, and I would be very surprised if he announces any type of list,” Kennedy said.

Instead he posited that the president’s tweets last week were meant to distract from news that a new book included incendiary remarks from former campaign aid Steve Bannon. “If Bannon is going to throw Trump under the bus, that’s something Trump needs to be very concerned about,” Kennedy said.

Indeed, whether or not Trump hands out awards on Monday, his actual behavior toward the media has been comparable to past presidents, including Barack Obama and George W. Bush, Kennedy said.

He noted that Obama ran “a very aggressive campaign against government leakers,” and some in the Bush administration argued to bring espionage charges against The New York Times after it ran stories about the existence of the National Security Agency program to listen in on private conversations.

“On the one hand, what we have with Trump is more talk than action,” Kennedy said. “The danger, though, is that he’s been able to reinforce the idea that his followers should cocoon themselves inside a media bubble in which Trump himself defines what is reality and what isn’t.”

By doing so, Trump has “taken advantage” of a situation in which people tend to create echo chambers wherein they read only what confirms their own beliefs.

“Trump is saying, ‘One of these is a fake news organization that’s out to get me, and the other is fair to me,’” Kennedy said. “That’s what’s different.”