In an unprecedented move, the White House has blocked several major news outlets from covering its press briefing.
White House Press Secretary Spicer on Friday chose to hand select what news outlets would be allowed to participate in the off-camera briefing with reporters inside his West Wing office as opposed to the James S Brady Press Briefing Room.
Who got barred from attending? The outlets that Trump has often criticized: CNN, BBC, The New York Times, LA Times, New York Daily News, Daily Mail, and a few others.
In an intriguing move, the press secretary allowed outlets including Breitbart News, One America News Network, and The Washington Times, who all tend to be right leaning news organizations. That said, a few other media outlets were allowed in including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, Reuters and Bloomberg.
“Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties,” Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times said in a statement. “We strongly protest the exclusion of The New York Times and the other news organizations. Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest.”
Multiple outlets including the Associated Press and TIME Magazine declined to attend the briefing to boycott the President’s decision.
The White House Correspondents’ Association also criticized the decision.
“The WHCA board is protesting strongly against how today’s gaggle is being handled by the White House,” Jeff Mason, the association’s President, said in a statement.
“We encourage the organizations that were allowed in to share the material with others in the press corps who were not. The board will be discussing this further with White House staff.”
What Can We Take From This?
This wasn’t a move to bar mainstream media entirely, but one that certainly cut out outlets Trump doesn’t align well with. Is this a move that should be allowed? Does it allow for fair and free open press? I tend to believe it doesn’t.
But, at the same time, these outlets are manipulating news to fit their own agenda, which Trump seems to be taking a stand against, so perhaps that is his motive. If so, perhaps Trump is trying to avoid tough questions or criticism. Maybe he has learned that mainstream media contributes greatly to further dividing and confusing the public so he’s trying to control the situation.
Whatever the reasoning, this is a very fine line between controlling free speech and trying to take action to better a situation. Can we trust that the general public can look at media with a critical thinking lens and see through lies and manipulation? Or does someone need to step in and try to control what goes out so people can get a clearer picture? An incredibly difficult debate to have and one that teeters on a very fine line of over stepping boundaries.
All in all, the state of mainstream media is being called out here and while there may be a number of reasons why Trump took this action, one thing is clear, the MSM is no longer being given the monopoly when it comes to reporting news. Public distrust in mainstream media is growing, and taking actions to humble them is a good step forward. I believe this forces organizations to think about their approach just as much as it forces the public to question why this is happening.
I wish to leave with one final reflection point, I believe media is meant to be there as a lens into what is going on, from a non-political, non-judgemental and non-manipulative point of view. Very few media outlets out there, certainly none in the mainstream, are taking this approach. I believe people are systematically being manipulated by mainstream media in ways that lead to destructive outcomes. I believe the world is waking up to this and a new world of media is emerging, one not dominated by mainstream banter. Do actions like these only further anger people? Or does it get us reflecting on what the ultimate goal of media truly is?
There is no doubting that people need to learn to think for themselves, and I believe changing the face of media and how it’s presented will ultimately help with that.