In just a few weeks Trump relationship with the press has turned fairly contentious.
In a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Trump criticized as “fake news” organizations that publish anonymously sourced reports that reflect poorly on him. And in a series of Twitter posts, he assailed the F.B.I. as a dangerously porous agency, condemning unauthorized revelations of classified information from within its ranks and calling for an immediate hunt for leakers.
Always a bold move to make enemies with the hands that feed you. As a President, it would appear from the outside that a strong relationship with the F.B.I. would be important to ensure you are properly informed. Since Trump ran a campaign which was entirely centered around sound bites in the media, it would also seem important to not burn all bridges with the people providing the sound bites.
This week, Trump decided to double down on his discontent, actually going so far as to handpick which media organizations were given access to the White House Press Conference.
Reporters from The Times, BuzzFeed News, CNN, The Los Angeles Times, Politico, the BBC and The Huffington Post were among those shut out of the briefing. Aides to Mr. Spicer admitted only reporters from a group of news organizations that, the White House said, had been previously confirmed.
Those organizations included Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, all with conservative leanings. Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Fox News also attended.
Notably, the Associated Press and Time magazine decided these moves were too draconian to support and boycotted the conference despite getting invitations to attend.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. It’s hard to get an accurate picture on how Trump’s base is responding to his actions in the White House. The success of the campaign was centered strongly around eschewing formalities and traditions and instead speak directly to the growing amount of American’s who are so frustrated with the system that they see anyone who thumbing their nose as it as an ally. Trump is clearly a member of the 1%, and for a huge portion of his base, one would assume they are not exactly fans of the richest elite. Somehow Trump’s behavior is able to have them feel connected to Trump.
The thing is, the organizations he is not inviting are still writing stories about Trump, and they’re probably not going to write more negatively about Trump now than they would have if the reporters themselves were still invited to the press conferences. As it stands, this almost seems like a no loss move for Trump, the left leaning papers will now have less access to direct clips to assault Trump with, and he wont be getting any less face time on TV or in any of these news sources than he was before.
I certainly am of the opinion that freedom of the press is very important, and that access to a multitude of perspectives is healthy. While I doubt this is Trump’s intent, it might be worth asking if we need to update our methods for communicating with politicians in the internet era.
One thing this Trump presidency is really reminding us is that assuming just because something is a tradition in the past is no reason to think that it will be followed in the future. If people feel like it is important for something to be considered the standard, it is important for us to actually make laws or set legal precedents which support these behaviors, because assuming that everyone will follow the tradition indefinitely is naïve.