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Network Presidents Defend Coverage of Trump Tweets: ‘They Are the Voice of the President’

Susan Zirinsky, Noah Oppenheim and James Goldston speak at the Financial Times Future of News conference in New York City

The presidents of CBS News, NBC News and ABC News broadly defended their coverage of President Trump’s tweets on Thursday during a joint panel discussion at the Financial Times Future of News conference in New York City on Thursday.

“Something may seem irrelevant in a Trump tweet, but it does get into what he’s thinking, what might happen,” CBS News chief Susan Zirinsky said on stage. “We make judgements based on editorial value, but I think the tweets are important. They are the voice of the president.”

“Some of the tweets … do provide insight into the president’s thinking,” NBC News president Noah Oppenheim added, while noting they can often be “precursors to policy announcement that have a real substantive impact.”

“This is the president in his own words, unfiltered,” ABC News head James Goldston said.

The unprecedented gathering of television broadcast news leadership addressed a wide variety of issues including fake news, trust in the media, engaging audience and how to avoid the mistakes of 2016 in the upcoming 2020 presidential campaign.

The panel was moderated by Financial Times news editor Matthew Garrahan, who noted that obsessive Trump Twitter coverage had come in for criticism from new media publishers at Vice and BuzzFeed during an earlier panel on trust in media.

Garrahan also grilled the presidents on a number of hot button (and well-trodden) issues. Zirinsky was pressed on lingering #MeToo fallout at CBS News, Oppenheim came in for renewed questions about NBC News’ decision to pass on Ronan Farrow’s reporting and Megyn Kelly’s ill-fated time at the “Today” show. Goldston meanwhile was asked to explain his decision to dine in Buckingham Palace with President Trump and the First Lady earlier this week.

“You get invited by the palace to go to an event celebrating D-Day, 75 years ago, many of my relatives died in the Holocaust, many of my relatives fought and died on the beaches of Normandy,” he said justifying the decision. “I will take that opportunity any time to celebrate those values.”

The annual Financial Times conference brings together a who’s who of media big wigs. Other speakers Thursday include Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Radhika Jones, CNN host Don Lemon, and Forbes Media chairman Steve Forbes

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