No Time To Keep Silent: The Press Goes Looking For Its Backbone

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Hopefully better late than never, the media - at least its academics if not quite yet its practitioners - may be starting to stand up and speak out. To date, the Orange Travesty has been so busy bullying, belittling, threatening libel and possibly banishing them to White House broom closets to make room for "sycophants and propagandists," and media outlets have been so panicked by the onslaught, that almost 300,000 people have signed a petition demanding the White House Press Corps grow a set, do their job, and support colleagues when the bullier-in-chief lambasts them for it. "You would expect that the press would be outraged at such behavior," notes the petition. "You would be wrong." It concludes, "If you see Trump blackballing an outlet, speak up and fight back. If not, you could be next."

Now into the cowed silence has stepped Kyle Pope, editor and publisher of the renowned Columbia Journalism Review, who wrote a blistering open letter to Trump on behalf of the Press Corps aimed at "setting some clear ground rules moving forward." Admitting to a currently "strained" relationship and briefly outlining Drumpfian crimes against them, Pope nonetheless insists, "We, not you, decide how best to serve our readers, listeners, and viewers." He goes on to note that access is "preferable, but not critical - We are very good at finding alternative ways to get information... It's a challenge we relish" - and they will call out lies, and they will work together in a unified front. "We will, of course, still have disagreements, and even important debates...But those debates will be ours to begin and end." Above all, he says, "We’ve been around since the founding of the republic...We're playing the long game."

Pope's defiant flash of courage echoes the now-famous and eerily prescient report of Edward R. Murrow condemning Joseph McCarthy in 1954. "He didn’t create this situation of fear - he merely exploited it, and rather successfully,” he said. "This is no time for men (sic) who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent." That fear, and the hate born of fear, are big parts of the Trumpian phenomenon. So is Trump's mind-boggling incoherence, and the alarming tendency to date of the media to try and mold it into something normal and digestible, perhaps so as not to scare the beejezus out of us all. Clearly, the best thing news outlets can do is let him run his mouth until his foot fills it.

Thus, his recent, astounding, deranged "interview" with the London Times. Intentionally or not, the Times chose to just let the crazy rip, running their "whackadoo" transcript as is and offering us as damning an indictment as anyone ever needed. The lesson to journalists: Do your job. Often, verbatim should cover it. Herein, Trump's response to the question how being President would change the way he operates.  

"Ya know this is a very, very big change — I led a very nice life and ya know successful and good and nice and this is a lot different — but ya know my attitude on that is when you’re president, you’re in the White House which is a very special place — you’re there for a limited period of time — who wants to leave? Like I’ve liked President Obama, he’s been very nice, yeah he’s been nice one on one, but maybe not so nice in other ways — but who wants to leave the White House to go to some other place and be away on a vacation? The White House is very special, there’s so much work to be done, I’m not gonna be leaving much — I mean a lot of work to be done — I’m gonna be in there working, doing what I’m supposed to be doing — but who wants to leave the White House?"


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