White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer recently blocked a few news agencies from a press briefing. The action caused a furor in the press, especially those whose reporters were banned … The New York Times, Politico, CNN, BuzzFeed, and The Washington Post among them. In fact, the briefing was an “invite only” off-camera session.
Those agencies represented included conservative news outlets, including Breitbart, Fox News, the Washington Times, and One America News Network. Also invited were several of the middle-of-the-road media outlets such as ABC, CBS, NBC, and The Wall Street Journal. As a show of solidarity, Time and members of the Associated Press chose to skip the briefing, even though they were invited.
But the move on Spicer’s part drew flak from some unexpected sources as well. More than one person from Fox News didn’t like it and spoke against the ban, even though they did not boycott the briefing. The White House said it was meant as an expanded “pool” briefing and that there are more than 3,000 accredited news sources in the White House press corps and for this meeting, there was a very limited number of spots. The “pool” idea is that those who are in attendance go and then disseminate the information to the rest of the media organizations. Because they had more room than the usual pool group of 13, they issued a limited number of additional invitations for the “gaggle” event.
Now, what good can come out of this move? At the moment, it may be difficult to find the silver lining, but the nation currently seems to be in a ban and boycott mode. The polarization of America becomes more extreme every time a new boycott or ban happens, but to those participating, they seem just and necessary.
President Trump and his people have been declaring “unfair” over press coverage well before the end of the election process. And many of those voting for him are in complete agreement. From the opposite side of the aisle, even though some media organizations have admitted to some bias, they flatly deny any “fake news” allegations.
As a people, we need free press, but since many polls show that more people disbelieve the press than the President, this may be a time for members of the press and their organizations to take a step back, refocus on news away from politics for a time, and avoid the sensationalism that people feel is out of control.
And from Donald Trump’s White House, banning or excluding members of the press corps for smaller meetings such as the one at the end of February should at least allow them to get through all the business needing to be discussed without constant interruptions and accusations. It’s not all good, but there are shining possibilities if both sides can figure out a way to more productive press sessions.