With changes in who has front-line White House press access under the Trump administration, a media establishment already embarrassed by the 2016 election is desperately trying to remain relevant.
MSM reporters are claiming that the president is avoiding tough questions by “handpicking friendly reporters” during press events.
Writing for The Washington Times, columnist Kelly Riddell pointed out a recent exchange between media mainstreamers on Twitter:
“By handpicking reporters, Trump manages to get through a news conference without being asked about Flynn,” New York Times reporter Peter Baker lamented on Twitter – failing to mention that all U.S. presidents handpick reporters.
Bloomberg’s Angela Greiling Keane helped him clarify.
“By *handpicking* friendly reporters. To be fair, the previous WH also handpicked reporters. But it was very different than this,” she tweeted.
Mark Murray at NBC News was equally flummoxed.
In response to a tweet from Lizzie O’Leary – who aptly pointed out that White Houses have been calling on specific reporters “they know won’t grill them since time immemorial,” Mr. Murray responded: “But not during bilateral pressers with world leaders, where questions typically go to wire reporters (AP, Reuters).”
Hadas Gold at Politico, quoted NBC Journalist Brian Williams, who noted on-air “what wasn’t being asked” at the press conference, adding the New York Times and Washington Post weren’t called upon.
Deputy Washington Editor of the New York Times, Jonathan Weisman, wasn’t pleased.
“Biggest papers in the U.S. blare headlines on embattled National Security Adviser Flynn. Trump calls on WJLA & Daily Caller, no Flynn questions,” he tweeted.
Greiling is right, the Obama White House certainly handpicked reporters during press conferences. Things were pretty typical: Mainstream media reporters were on hand and the big dogs favored by the Obama White House got to ask the questions.
And the Obama administration did so to the despair of many U.S. conservatives who repeatedly noted that the press had a nasty habit of swooning over the power they were supposed to be checking.
Reason last year that “Obama screws, skewers the media, but they do so love him.” It’s worth a read…
With Obama it was worse than simple swooning, though.
Throughout Obama’s presidency, the White House trampled on press freedom and continuously sought to control the media narrative by releasing its own highly-polished reports and information. It was in many ways a press release presidency.
Trump, if he’s sincere about wanting to open the White House to more outlets, is actually giving both mainstream and alternative outlets a chance to do better.
If the Trump administration demonstrates a willingness to field tough questions by opening the floor to lesser-known liberal or libertarian-leaning outlets critical of his administration, the MSM argument that he’s being bolstered by sympathetic conservative media (which, for now, is fair considering how his administration is structured) will slowly fall apart.