Across the Universe: With Trump in charge, what’s next for media? (opinion)
January 18, 2017
I'm prone to enjoying a good television series as much as anyone, and recently I've found myself immersed in The West Wing, the NBC series from 1999-2006 that starred Martin Sheen as a loquacious and emotional POTUS.
I'm not yet through Season One, but it's clearly deserving of the critical acclaim it achieved a decade-plus ago, in addition to the Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy wins and nominations it garnered.
The extra draw for me as a news person is that much of the show centers on the president's working (and at-times personal) relationships with his communications staff and the White House press secretary.
So, having just watched an episode Monday night that included a storyline about a White House reporter publishing a story about a leaked internal document that bad-mouthed the Commander-in-Chief, I chuckled when the following headline popped up on my news feed Tuesday morning: "An open letter to Trump from the US press corps."
It's written by Kyle Pope, Editor in Chief and Publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, and regardless of what side of the coin you fall on with Donald Trump, it is highly recommended reading.
Long story short, our President-Elect has made no bones publicizing his criticism of the mainstream media, even going as far as labeling CNN as fake news; fast-tweeting incredible insults about the news media; and most recently, entertaining the idea of pulling news media offices out of the White House.
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That latter point struck a nerve with much of the American media, leading to Pope's letter. There are a variety of firm and forward statements within, clearly affirming the points on which the First Amendment was founded and stressing the importance of journalism in America — regardless of the increasing amounts of criticism hurled at the profession during Trump's election campaign and eventual victory.
Pope's letter ends with the following: "We're playing the long game. Best-case scenario, you're going to be in this job for eight years. We've been around since the founding of the republic, and our role in this great democracy has been ratified and reinforced again and again and again. You have forced us to rethink the most fundamental questions about who we are and what we are here for. For that we are most grateful."
In essence, Pope is returning serve on behalf of the American media to Trump's threats and offering a threat of his own to Trump with this decree: We will not let this stop us from doing our jobs, and you damn sure can bet on that.
Problem is, Trump is doing the same. In his mind, in order to "make America great again," he has to lead like no one has ever led, and that means bucking tradition (the press has had offices in the White House since 1890, after all) and trying new things.
Those who disagree — or downright hate — Trump might call those things nuts or crazy or ludicrous, but what they cannot call them is "the same."
So, time will tell on what kind of stories are told of our country's new leadership team. My concern? It's not if reporters report from the White House — it's if, come 4 or even 8 years, they are allowed to report at all.
Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. Email him at email@example.com.