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Blamed for everything, news media needed more than ever

By Peter Weinberger

 

Not that I’m getting paranoid or anything, but it’s pretty clear we have a president-elect who seriously dislikes the news media.

In fact, Donald Trump is making it his mission to take them down, although I’m not exactly sure what that all means. Access to this president could be so limited, we’d better save a file photo of Mr. Trump just in case we don’t see him live for a while.

At one point in his career, Mr. Trump enjoyed the media and would rarely shy away from any camera. After two years on the campaign trail, things have changed dramatically.

Mr. Trump would regularly point out reporters at rallies to rile up his supporters. He wants to open up libel laws to make it easier to sue, and makes no secret he wants to chip away at the First Amendment. Even Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly says “journalists need to steel their spines” to get ready for the barrage of attacks over the next four years.

Now, I realize the news media is far from perfect. Especially when you include social media. And there are some valid reasons why Mr. Trump should be upset. And because of the internet, stories don’t go away. The same questions are asked over and over and over again. Then some outlets just plain get it wrong. Other websites make it impossible to separate fact from opinion. And with a Twitter-typing president, the flames of inaccuracy are fed continually.

The small White House press pool, which follows a president’s every move for their news organizations, has been impacted because Mr. Trump ignores press protocols. On Tuesday, the Trump family ditched the press by having dinner at a Manhattan steakhouse. This may seem like a little thing, but the usual arrangement allows the press some access in case something newsworthy happens.

Transparency? Forget about it. There are no laws that require a president to give daily briefings or press conferences. And if a reporter writes about an issue Mr. Trump doesn’t like, that person could have their access revoked.

This message has been sent. You better fall in line or forfeit your job.

Just this week, Mr. Trump went after the New York Times and Washington Post for what he perceived as inaccurate reporting. Problem was he didn’t mention any specifics or information backing his claims. Some of you may think the newspapers are just part of the liberal media, but those organizations are thorough fact checkers, something sorely needed after any Trump speech.

Some believe Mr. Trump’s constant attacks on the news media create a cloud over what’s fact and fiction. Although politicians do this to some extent, Mr. Trump is relentless. Instead of giving the public real answers about how his transition team is doing, he just goes to Twitter announcing everything is going “smoothly” and then attacks the New York Times. It doesn’t matter that they have named sources backing everything.

A classic “shoot the messenger” mentality.

So what can Mr. Trump do to show his administration is transparent? One easy solution is to hold regular press conferences. Given the question-and-answer format, questions can be hard to predict, making it easier to get real answers instead of prepared statements.

Needless to say, it will be an interesting four years to see what role the media plays in reporting from the White House. If this election tells us anything, the role of “watchdog” will never have been so important.

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