President-elect Donald Trump’s administration will make some drastic changes to press briefings, and it’s not good. “Some people in the press will not be able to get in,” Trump said during an interview on the Fox News Channel.
But political journalists are not bowing down to Trump’s authoritarian attitude. Instead, they decided to confront his threats to kick the media out of the White House head on, setting the tone for a contentious next four years.
Kyle Pope, the publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, published an open letter to the President-elect on behalf of the Washington press corps, outlining the press’s duty to cover the incoming administration accurately, fairly, and most importantly without interference from the executive branch.
The letter addresses Trump’s threat to remove reporters from the White House entirely, and said that while access is preferable, it isn’t critical, and moreover a “challenge we relish.” Pope also told Trump that the press — not him or his administration — is the ultimate decider in what will be on or off the record, and that reporters and reporters alone will decide how much airtime and how many column inches to give his spokespeople. In regards to Trump’s surrogates, Pope seemed to reference former campaign manager and professional spin machine Kellyanne Conway:
“We will strive to get your point of view across, even if you seek to shut us out. But that does not mean we are required to turn our airwaves or column inches over to people who repeatedly distort or bend the truth,” Pope wrote. “We will call them out when they do, and we reserve the right, in the most egregious cases, to ban them from our outlets.”
Pope also promised that Trump won’t be able to lie his way out of tough questions, seemingly calling out Wall Street Journal Editor in Chief Gerard Baker — who said his paper wouldn’t be calling Trump’s lies “lies” — without mentioning his name.
When you or your surrogates say or tweet something that is demonstrably wrong, we will say so, repeatedly. Facts are what we do, and we have no obligation to repeat false assertions; the fact that you or someone on your team said them is newsworthy, but so is the fact that they don’t stand up to scrutiny. Both aspects should receive equal weight.
The Columbia Journalism Review chief also admirably acknowledged the press corps’ fundamental lack of respect from a majority of the public, and promised the Trump administration that journalists would work tirelessly during the next four years to not only hold power accountable, but to hold themselves accountable.
“We credit you with highlighting serious and widespread distrust in the media across the political spectrum. Your campaign tapped into that, and it was a bracing wake-up call for us,” Pope wrote. “We have to regain that trust. And we’ll do it through accurate, fearless reporting, by acknowledging our errors and abiding by the most stringent ethical standards we set for ourselves.”