Rucker, who conducted a 50-minute interview with Trump earlier this month, said journalists following the GOP nominee have been forced to pay attention to every word he is saying when he speaks. In 2012, when Rucker was covering Mitt Romney's campaign, he said, "you could sit through the rallies and something he said was something you already heard before and you didn't have to keep up with it so carefully."
That's journalistic malpractice with Trump, who routinely creates headlines with his parenthetical asides — and subsequently quibbles with the quotes or the paraphrases that result.
This dynamic has prompted mainstream news outlets — particularly print— to publish transcripts of Trump interviews in conjunction with their interviews. The New York Times, which twice interviewed Trump this year on foreign policy, published "edited" transcripts of each, but did not release the tape recording of the interview. (Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told CNBC.com: "We only edited out 'off the record' comments and it was never a consideration to post the audio." She declined to explain why.)
Earlier this month, in a podcast interview with former CBS anchor Bob Schieffer, Times reporter David Sanger, who conducted the Trump interviews with colleague Maggie Haberman, said his paper decided to publish transcripts to protect itself from charges it had mischaracterized the Republican nominee.
"That's because we're in a situation and a political atmosphere right now where you get a lot of people saying, 'Oh, you know, the liberal media took Mr. Trump out of context or asked a trick question or whatever, " Sanger said. "I think these days in things as important as presidential interviews it is important that we do that."
In the transcripts, the Times kept its punctuating to a minimum: It used just 61 em dashes in its first interview with Trump, which took place over two telephone calls on March 25. In its second interview on July 21, which was shorter, there were 41 em dashes. (Sanger and the Times' politics editor, Carolyn Ryan, did not respond to requests for comment. In an email, Haberman declined to comment.)
In March, The Washington Post produced a transcript and the audio of its editorial board's in-person interview with Trump. Even before the meeting, much thought had gone into how the paper would reproduce the written exchange. It assigned 10 Post journalists to break up the transcribing work and tasked James Downie, digital opinions editor, to oversee the final product.
Downie told CNBC.com he was "nervous" from the start, particularly with what to do in the event Trump innocently misspoke. Fortunately, Downie said, no such incident occurred, but the endeavor of merely conveying Trump's speaking style was a uniquely difficult deadline assignment.
"It was very much unlike any other transcription I have been a part of," Downie said. After pulling together the various chunks his reporters transcribed, Downie relistened to the entire audio. Ultimately, the transcript resulted in 81 em dashes and 57 ellipses. The other big question Downie grappled over was how to capture the extra-verbal aspects of the interview, without overly editorializing it. He ultimately decided to interject in two places: once, when Trump was pointing to a Washington Post columnist while speaking, and at another point, when he was relaying an anecdote that included an expletive. The transcript noted that Trump said it "in a hushed voice."
"He tried to mouth it as much as possible," Downie recalled. "In both cases, I think it helped [the] reader and made it a more accurate transcript."
But all this meta-analysis can numb the media's mind after a while.
The tedium of fine-parsing Trumpspeak can at times find reporters and pundits dumping block-quotes of Trump speeches under headlines with the phrase "word salad."
At other times, the media has taken to mock-crowd sourcing the syntax of Trump's sentences. During a live podcast show in July, the hosts of Slate's Political Gabfest attempted to diagram a Trump sentence from a speech he gave in South Carolina. Conceding defeat, they later turned to their online followers for assistance.