“Some media organizations were banned covering presidential candidates over the course of this election process. Should there be legislation in place preventing politicians from doing so?”
Gorman is a government major and pursuing an accelerated Master of Public Policy. He has been writing weekly opinion columns for UVA’s Cavalier Daily since January 2015.
It’s no surprise that Donald Trump has spent the past year pointing his middle finger at the institutions of print and televised media. He has antagonized practically every coalition in America since the beginning of his campaign of non sequiturs — harnessing the rage of dissatisfied masses across the country.
Yet, even after banning prominent news outlets, such as The Washington Post and The Guardian, from attending his public events, Trump remained the focal point of their election coverage throughout his primary bid. According to a study from the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University, “the politics of outrage was [Trump’s] edge, and the press became his dependable if unwitting ally,” providing him with an estimated $55 million in free advertising.
This phenomenon had fatal consequences on our nation’s political conversation. Without the ability to directly challenge his ideology, several media outlets were limited to conjecture and criticism based on Trump’s incendiary sound bites.
To rescue the sinking ship of political conversation, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank recently called for a ban on “free publicity” for the Trump campaign—an entertainment embargo on the American public. In my eyes, this is not a feasible solution. Noble intentions simply do not align with the incentive structure of privatized media; corporations need to make money, and personality is far more lucrative than policy.
Nonetheless, Trump’s campaign has revealed a gaping hole in the federal government’s protection of freedom of press — one that needs to be fixed as quickly as possible. Milbank alludes to a startling hypothetical situation in which President Trump “could choose which journalists and outlets would be admitted to the White House briefing room, participate in the press pool or join presidential events.”
Furthermore, the precedent Trump has established may plague our nation’s politics for years to come. We know from experience that politicians are not eager to act ethically—especially when they can blame someone else for starting the trend.
This nation needs to provide journalists with protections to cover candidates, regardless of their political or institutional affiliation.
Larry Campbell, 61, executive editor, The World (Coos Bay, Ore.)
Campbell has been executive editor of The World since 2013. He began his journalism career in 1982.
In a word, no.
We in the news business routinely get baited by declarations of the kind presented recently by presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“Based on the incredibly inaccurate coverage and reporting of the record-setting Trump campaign, we are hereby revoking the press credentials of the phony and dishonest Washington Post,” said the candidate in a Facebook post earlier this year and quoted in a June 13 story the news organization published.
In the same story, Post executive editor Martin Baron replied: “Donald Trump’s decision to revoke The Washington Post’s press credentials is nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press.”
Bloviating from both sides, I’d suggest.
“Banning” the press isn’t new, as are few things in the world. And the push-and-pull between the press corps and the president is as old as George Washington, who feared newspapers wouldn’t give his farewell address enough coverage because of its length.
Indeed, the Post’s history with other presidents has been contentious. Richard Nixon banned reporters from everywhere in the White House but the press briefing room during reporting on the scandal. He also began selectively excluding the Post from covering social events in the White House.
The Post is still around. Nixon resigned in disgrace.
Journalists persevere. Politicians rise or fall based on their actions, which may or may not be fully attributable to news accounts. Banning us certainly won’t stop us.
To protect this notion of a free and independent press, the founding fathers—including Washington and Jefferson—provided the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
They knew, as any politician or wanna-be politician today should understand, that they serve the public and have given up the right to refuse to answer to the public. Indeed, the First Amendment is the only government decree we need or should ever rely on to conduct our mission in the most free and unfettered fashion possible.
Our very existence, unique in journalism around the world, depends on complete separation from government. Laws intended to help us in our journalistic endeavors vital to American freedom, will only be turned against us.
The proper response to chest-beating like that from Mr. Trump? Keep doing journalism.