Commentary

Suppose They Gave A Press Briefing And Nobody Came?

Lawsuits aside, there may be a better way for the press corps to reassert its First Amendment right to cover this White House: They could simply stop covering its press briefings altogether.

Hear me out.

The goal of all administrations is to control the narrative in order to gain public trust and political equity to advance policy and support its legislative agenda. But when the narrative becomes unabashed gaslighting, it may be time to rethink the role the media play in disseminating it.

So it’s ironic that when a high-profile member of the White House press corps -- CNN correspondent Jim Acosta -- stood his ground in order to get an answer, it turned into an altercation, a spin job, and ultimately, the revocation of his White House press credentials.

CNN has since sued the White House on First Amendment grounds, which it should, if for no better reason than to reinforce its Constitutional imperative.

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But a more effective response would be for the White House press to start boycotting the briefings altogether. Or even better, send their interns to cover it and let their correspondents cover the White House in more productive ways — working their sources to get the kind of information the White House would not officially provide.

A boycott or a downgrading of the importance of the White House press briefings would serve several purposes:

  • It would send a signal to the White House about who actually controls the narrative.

  • It would allow news organizations to redeploy their resources to advance genuine news.

  • It would reinforce their First Amendment freedom: to NOT cover a fake source of information that labels them as “fake” news.

Think about it. Even if it’s just a one-time moratorium, a boycott of a White House press briefing would be a powerful statement about who controls the news.

9 comments about "Suppose They Gave A Press Briefing And Nobody Came?".
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  1. pj bednarski from MediaPost.com, November 14, 2018 at 9:44 a.m.

    I like the idea of interns doing it. I also thought of this: How about one day in which the press corps only asks the kind of questions Trump would like. Or ask questions in a modified Fox News style: Mr President everybody appreciates your strong stance with European nations, instead of coddling them like the other presidents did. Can you tell the American people which country you think is the most disgusting one that you hate the most? 

  2. Jay Goldstein from Independent, November 14, 2018 at 9:46 a.m.

    Joe, 

    Been saying this for years. The attention is his oxygen, stop covering him, the oxygen thins and he mets away! 

  3. David Shank from Shank Public Relations Counselors, November 14, 2018 at 10:26 a.m.

    Media presence is absolutely necessary. If reporters aren't there T and the administration could lob all sorts of policy bombs and no one would know. Interns won't be able to ask the tough questions only because they don't have the experience. But the answer is fairly simple: the media agree to pool coverage as they do in other media situations. That is, one live camera crew, one TV reporter, one print reporter - or a Helen Thomas-like AP reporter (I'm showing my age) one radio reporter and a verbatim Tweet feed for social media. News organizations would agree on a rotating schedule.

    The assumption is that all news comes from the 'news' conferences. Wrong. Regardless of the quality of a news conference the best in-depth reporting is done digging into credible, real and intelligent sources.

    As a former reporter I can see this could be effective, limit the grandstanding and most importantly have a presence that would prevent nasty surprises.

  4. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, November 14, 2018 at 10:32 a.m.

    @Jay Goldstein: "[Fill in the blank], who?"

  5. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, November 14, 2018 at 10:52 a.m.

    @David Shank: Agree with "presence," but it can come in many forms. And the one in which our most accomplished, professional and (I believe) principled journalists are turned into props for public display, disinformation and, worst of all, gaslighting, is what I'm recommending against.

    I think your one, authoritative representative/pool idea is a good solution. They should try it and see how it works.

    I still think there are ways of "covering" the briefings without serving as a prop -- and a tacit endorsement -- of what's going on.

    The briefings air and stream live for anyone who wants to cover them -- https://www.whitehouse.gov/live/ -- so if the White House lobs any policy bombs -- they can still cover them and they can still ask follow ups for clarification, amplification, etc. without the theatrics of the TV "show."

    I'm just recommending the press seize control the part of the narrative where they are turned into adversarial characters in a scripted reality TV show.

    It would have been cool to see Helen Thomas star in that.

  6. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, November 14, 2018 at 11:27 a.m.

    Since most of what Trump says is bullshit anyway, I don't think the American public needs to hear every utterance and tweet. It will ruin the "Did You See What That Idiot Tweeted Today?!!?" conversations, but they only add to our national malaise. Silence from the White Hiouse would add greatly to our collective mental health.

  7. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 14, 2018 at 3:54 p.m.

    Ahead, the news organizations - or most of them - decide which question/topic they will ask over and over again until they get an answer. E.G. when Acosta did not get his answer, the next correspondent asks it again. And again. Until he explodes and a variation of B.J. Benarski's plan. The shooting of himself and his adminstration in their feet are sure to come. 

  8. David Vossbrink from Retired replied, November 17, 2018 at 12:57 p.m.

    It’s a Spartacus moment—every reporter at White House news conferences should identify as Jim Acosta.

  9. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, November 17, 2018 at 2:22 p.m.

    I am Jim Acosta!

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