Will it soon be time to retire this poster? Stay tuned…
Well. Here’s something I never thought I’d see. The media are actually standing up to a monumentally corrupt, crapitalist, far-right politician! And it’s one they helped to put in power, too! Seems that the whole “what the fuck, let’s promote the shit out of him, he’ll net some extra eyeballs (and ad cash) for us” schtick hasn’t worked out so well for them, since he’s now calling them the “lying press” (a word he clearly can’t pronounce in German and ain’t even gonna try, as it’s longer than two syllables and requires more than a ten-year-old’s reading skills). So now they’re gonna do something unheard of in the history of corporate media, and actually stand up to this bully…or so they say:
Now, before the Committee to Protect Journalists throws up the batsign and the rest of us bemoan Trump’s actions as anti-press — which they are — let’s thank the incoming president for simplifying our mission. If Trump’s idea of a news conference is to spank the press, if his lieutenants believe the press needs shutting down, if his chief of staff wants to speculate about moving the White House press scrum off the premises, perhaps reporters ought to take the hint and prepare to cover his administration on their own terms. Instead of relying exclusively on the traditional skills of political reporting, the carriers of press cards ought to start thinking of covering Trump’s Washington like a war zone, where conflict follows conflict, where the fog prevents the collection of reliable information directly from the combatants, where the assignment is a matter of life or death.
In his own way, Trump has set us free. Reporters must treat Inauguration Day as a kind of Liberation Day to explore news outside the usual Washington circles. He has been explicit in his disdain for the press and his dislike for press conferences, prickly to the nth degree about being challenged and known for his vindictive way with those who cross him. So, forget about the White House press room. It’s time to circle behind enemy lines.
That all sounds very rally-the-troops-around-the-flaggy, but what exactly does it mean?
Well, according to the article, it apparently means scrapping the “you tell me what I need to know, I’ll listen to what you want me to report” approach that’s obviously done fuck-all for both media credibility and the public interest, and which has only truly been of service to the lobbyists who bought the politicians and their flunkies in the first place. Or, if I’m reading this correctly: Since no one wants to play softball anymore, time to break out the hardballs?
Apparently, the answer is yes:
The press has already started to prepare itself for such a Trumpian lockout by pursuing news angles that rely less on official access than usual. At the Washington Post, the newspaper has assembled a team that includes the much-lauded foundation-buster David Fahrenthold to investigate Trump’s business dealings and conflicts of interest and potential violations of the Emoluments Clause. The Wall Street Journal just explored how Trump’s debt to more than 150 financial institutions (more than $1.5 billion than he has admitted to in disclosure forms) may create potential conflicts of interest for him.
Opportunities to ignore the White House minders and investigate Trump announce themselves almost daily. For instance, the load-bearing walls of the Office of Government Ethics are groaning with the weight of filings by his appointees, as the New York Times reported earlier this month. Trump has installed the “wealthiest cabinet in modern American history,” the Times says. Its website has already crashed from public queries and the OGE director has denounced the Trump plan to avoid conflict of interest as “wholly inadequate.” Reporters will be mining these forms for months and producing damaging results without any Trump administration confirmation or cooperation.
As Trump shuts down White House access to reporters, they will infest the departments and agencies around town that the president has peeved. The intelligence establishment, which Trump has deprecated over the issue of Russian hacking, owes him no favors and less respect. It will be in their institutional interest to leak damaging material on Trump. The same applies to other bureaucracies. Will a life-long EPA employ take retirement knowing he won’t be replaced, or if he is, by somebody who will take policy in a direction he deplores? Such an employee could be a fine source. Trump, remember, will only be president, not emperor, and as such subject to all the passive-aggressive magic a bureaucracy can produce. Ditto the Pentagon, the State Department, the FBI, and even conventionally newsless outposts like Transportation and Labor.
In other words: Never mind the Drumpf bollocks, here are the stone-cold facts…AND the Little People Behind the Scenes! Gosh, suddenly THEY matter. A lot more than they ever have since Woodward and Bernstein broke the Watergate scandal. Will wonders never cease?
Meanwhile, the Columbia Journalism Review has thrown down the gauntlet, too. You can read their entire (feisty!) open letter to Drumpf here.
And even more remarkably, the Little People are now crowd-sourcing the media’s work. Buzzfeed, for instance, is enlisting its readers’ help in mapping all the connections in Drumpf’s business dealings. Plenty of crunchy nuggets for the press to feast on in there, I’m sure. And plenty of old (and still potentially impeachable) scandals should turn up too. The public is now doing the grunt-work of both the Fourth Estate AND the houses of congress, in other words.
All I can say to this is that it’s about time that the press AND the public have finally woken from their slumber and decided to get off their duffs. Lord knows it’s late enough. Let’s hope they can keep this up, because it could be a long four years.