What Journalism Has to Fear
Both Trump and Clinton have treated the media dismissively, following in Obama’s anti-press footsteps.
By Lauren Grimaldi, Roosevelt University
One of the core principles the United States was founded upon is freedom of the press.
It is a part of the First Amendment, intended to allow the people a means of checking the government. Access to investigative press is a right that many Americans take for granted, though in other countries journalists are still thrown in prison for questioning the powers that be.
While journalists in the U.S. do not have to face the censorship that plagues other countries, the politicians they cover often treat them with disdain. This is readily apparent in the 2016 Election. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have had their fair share of issues with the press, though only Trump has gone so far as to ban certain media members from obtaining access to his campaign events.
In response to what was deemed by him to be poor reporting, the businessman-turned-politician revoked press credentials for the “Washington Post.” This action came after the well-respected news organization posted an article suggesting that Mr. Trump linked President Obama to the recent massacre in Orlando, FL. Though he did indeed make statements that seemingly suggest the claim, the presumptive Republican nominee took to Facebook to announce that the Washington Post was now banned from covering his events.
And they aren’t the only media outlet banned from coverage of Trump’s events. Politico, Huffington Post and Buzzfeed have all been barred at one point or another by the campaign. The mere fact that the Republican candidate believes he can do this before he even reaches any office of power is concerning. There are a great number of reasons to be dismayed at the very idea of a Donald Trump presidency, and his treatment of the press must be added to that list.
On the other side, Clinton has not held a formal press conference in over 100 days, since December 2015 to be exact. She does not restrict anyone from access to coverage, but it remains that a presidential candidate essentially refusing to meet formally with the media is a bizarre way to run a campaign.
Politico recently ran an article discussing Clinton’s dismissal of the press and suggested reasons why she may be so uninterested in meeting with them. While her personal issues with the press can perhaps be explained more by her phobia of them than a disdain, she has proven to be more than capable of handling tough questions. The Benghazi Hearings more than verified that claim, which is why her fright of press conferences does not really make much sense. If she’s President, she will be under even more scrutiny. While she’s proven herself capable before, she should be continuing to show herself as capable of answering the tough questions in order to even further set herself apart from Trump.
The current candidates, however, are not the only politicians to scorn the media.
Throughout his time in office, President Barack Obama’s relationship with the media has been rocky at best. Though he by no means restricts the right of journalists to write as they please, his obvious distrust for the press has been evident from the very beginning of his campaign in 2008. This is why Columbia Journalism Review wrote in 2014 that the current president’s relationship with the media is one of the worst in history.
“There has always been a certain tension between the White House and the press corps that covers it, and that is natural and healthy, press secretaries and reporters say,” wrote Susan Milligan. “But the conditions can breed frustration; journalists, for example, for many years have been barred from walking around all but limited areas unless they are chaperoned by staff.”
And she’s right.
The coexistence of the press and the President should by no means be overly-friendly, but the contention between the two should be concerning. And in an election in which both candidates have a hearty dislike for the media, the issue must come to light lest everyone be surprised in a few years when the 45th president restricts the press.
Of course, there are plenty reasons that politicians dislike the press.
There can be unfair coverage, dishonest reporting and blatant biases committed by even the most respected news organizations.
And by no means should any politician be the best friend of any member of the press, but a hasty relationship leads to coverage that is truly less than helpful to actually contributing good, hardened journalism into the public discourse. While investigative pieces are what make the reporting industry so strong and imperative to the well being of America, it is critical that at least enough of a freedom to cover government exists so that the media truly can be a check on our leaders. If they continue to dodge questions they do not like, ban organizations from attending their events or ignore the press in its entirety, it makes it hard for journalists to do their jobs.
Plus, constantly dodging the media does not make you look very earnest. Hillary Clinton already has an enormous problem with gaining the trust of the American people, and it does not help her case that she has completely ignored meeting formally with the press officially for the entirety of her 2016 campaign.
The dynamic between the politician and the press is a tricky one—but it is one that must persist. If Clinton is elected President, she will have to have a better relationship with the very same media members that she right now seems to be frightened by. On the other hand, Trump, has said he will reinstate clearance to “Washington Post,” an organization he has deemed to be “dishonest” and “phony” on his Twitter account a number of times. But the mere fact that he even considers his ability to revoke their rights at this stage in the game is worrisome. Sure, he says right now that he would restore their access should he be elected, however, he is not the easiest to trust.
The importance of this election cannot be understated by any means. It may seem as if the candidates’ relationships with the press were irrelevant, but their behavior is worrisome. Critics have intoned for years now that the vitality of journalism to American culture is declining, and with both candidates treating the media with disregard throughout the primaries, what is now a disturbing trend could gradually transition into a horrific reality.