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Press Corps to President-Elect Trump: Rules Are Ours to Set—Not Yours

"When you shout down or ignore a reporter at a press conference who has said something you don't like, you're going to face a unified front," letter warns media-hostile Trump

President-elect Donald Trump got into a shouting match with a reporter at last week's press conference. (Photo: CNN)

As Donald Trump prepares to take office, the U.S. press corps has offered the president-elect—whose relationship with the media is dicey at best—"a backgrounder on what to expect from us over the next four years." 

The open letter published Tuesday at the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) reminds Trump that cracking down on access won't stop the media from doing its job: "We are very good at finding alternative ways to get information; indeed, some of the best reporting during the campaign came from news organizations that were banned from your rallies," it reads. 

The letter, penned by CJR editor-in-chief and publisher Kyle Pope, also warns Trump that "off the record and other ground rules are ours—not yours—to set" and that "we decide how much airtime to give your spokespeople and surrogates."

And it vows:

We're going to work together. You have tried to divide us and use reporters' deep competitive streaks to cause family fights. Those days are ending. We now recognize that the challenge of covering you requires that we cooperate and help one another whenever possible. So, when you shout down or ignore a reporter at a press conference who has said something you don't like, you're going to face a unified front. We'll work together on stories when it makes sense, and make sure the world hears when our colleagues write stories of importance. We will, of course, still have disagreements, and even important debates, about ethics or taste or fair comment. But those debates will be ours to begin and end.

The letter cites multiples examples of Trump's hostility toward the fourth estate, including his shouting matches with journalists, having banned members of the media from his rallies, blasting specific news outlets on Twitter, and threatening to loosen libel laws "so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money."

Just this week, there was considerable media outcry after news reports suggested the Trump team was thinking of moving the press corps—referred to as the "opposition party"—out of the White House. Echoing Pope's letter, CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett had this to say in response:

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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