Politics & Media
Jan 16, 2017, 02:37PM

Media Ought to Swap Out Its White House Correspondents

Reporters and pundits aren’t up to the Trump challenge.

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One of the most common journalistic clichés in the past month, as recently written by The Nation’s unctuous Eric Alterman, is “Fasten your seat belts, people. It’s going to be a bumpy four years.” It’s a legitimate question as to whether Trump will last four years—his conflicts of interest world-wide, past business indiscretions, bankruptcies, and other non-personal breaches of the law are fodder for serious investigative reporters—although a Republican Congress until at least the 2018 midterms should keep him immune. Surprisingly, Alterman makes a point, in disgust rather than praise for Trump’s befuddling the media, that’s escaped most of his colleagues. He writes: “[Trump’s Twitter feed is] filled with falsehoods and threats, it has become a crack-like addiction for reporters, successfully diverting attention from reporting about Trump’s corruption, incompetence, ignorance, dishonesty, misogyny, prejudice, and authoritarian tendencies, to name just a few of the new president’s charms.”

My Splice Today colleague Crispin Sartwell wrote a bullseye piece today about Trump’s masterful manipulation of Twitter, and how it’s left the status quo White House reporters in a puddle of mush. That’s in line with my contention that if major news organizations—TV, print, and digital—had a lick of sense they’d replace their veteran reporters and columnists, re-assign them to metro or foreign beats (at least those companies that can still afford foreign bureaus) and let an entire new team take on Trump’s White House. A fresh batch of correspondents, unsoiled by past relationships with political consultants, elected officials, and lobbyists, would likely not react to the latest Trump comment as something “that’s just not done.” I’ve (sort of) facetiously suggested on Twitter that, say The New York Times’ or Washington Post’s gardening and chess writers might be ripe for such a job; although I suppose it’s more realistic—in my idea that won’t happen—that seasoned local reporters get the assignment. I’d wager that a virgin DC press corps wouldn’t go ballistic at Trump’s threat to ban correspondents from asking questions at irregular press conferences, as the media in unison did when CNN’s Jim Acosta was shut down by Trump last week with a pretty funny “Don’t be rude, don’t be rude, your [TV station] is fake news." Besides, even if Trump effectively circumvents the media, it’s not as if—as noted above—there isn’t plenty for enterprising reporters to dig up on the most obnoxious, unorthodox president in our lifetime.

Not incidentally, Trump’s refusal to play by the media’s rules must have ex-presidents, who all despised the press, thinking, with a touch of jealousy, “Jeez, why didn’t I do that?”

Meanwhile, as surely as the Patriots are playing deep into the NFL playoffs, Times scold Paul Krugman ratcheted up his personal hysteria on Monday, pegging off Trump’s ill-considered tweets about Rep. John Lewis. As is now well-known, Lewis, and many other Democrats, won’t attend Trump’s inauguration of Friday because he’s an “illegitimate president.” I’ve no idea why watching or attending the festivities is such a big deal—I won’t tune in—and the fuss over Trump’s inability to attract pop groups or singers to entertain is just silly. Dubbing Trump “Dear Leader,” Krugman writes that calling the new president “illegitimate” is moral and patriotic. He off-handedly gives some credence to BuzzFeed’s “unverified” story from last week, by saying, “Are the lurid tales about adventures in Moscow true? We don’t know, but Mr. Trump’s creepy obsequiousness to Vladimir Putin makes it hard to dismiss these allegations.” Never mind that Krugman’s own newspaper refused to print the story.

Krugman rants away: “What this means is that Mr. Trump must not be treated with personal deference simply because of the position he has managed to seize. He must not be granted the use of the White House as a bully pulpit.”

I’ve no idea whether Trump reads Krugman—probably not—but if an aide did pass on the left-winger’s remarks, I’m sure a hearty laugh could be heard from Trump Tower to the Capitol. Krugman, like so many bitter Democrats, simply doesn’t understand that the rules have changed.

—Follow Russ Smith on Twitter: @MUGGER1955

  • What was so wrong about BF printing the 35 page doc?

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  • I don't have any patience with what Krugman did with his column. That's mainly because I think his column helps legitimize Twitter as a platform for Trump's Administration, and Twitter is not a rigorous or conversational platform -- it is a declarative one, where falsehood and truth seem like matters of opinion. In other words, by implying that Twitter is "where the action is," Krugman actually helps move the Times out of the spotlight. However, while I agree that Presidents past are probably jealous of Trump...this is a particular moment that's about to end. It's the time between election and inauguration, when Trump can say anything he likes, and there aren't any facts standing in his way. Let's see how much fun he has claiming the economy is booming, when it starts to fail, or claiming he cares about the inner city, when death rates there spike. That is the revenge he has so richly prepared for the journalists he ignores.

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  • I think sitting out the inauguration is seen as important because Trump is so ratings obsessed. He wants to beat Obama's record-setting attendance numbers, and he wants to be able to say his inauguration got the best ratings ever. He'll probably say those that anyway, regardless of the truth.

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  • Did you read BuzzFeed's post, Tex? It repeatedly said it couldn't verify the accuracy of what they printed. That's what's wrong, and really stupid.

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  • There was no shortage of birther coverage when everyone but Trump was unable to verify. There was no shortage of Cruz's father/Kennedy assassination story. In fact, there is no shortage of coverage of any of Trump's lies. So what is the difference between reporting on Trump's tweets, which almost always occurs prior to the veracity being explored, and printing someone else's unverified claims? My point, is that this is not at all new yet everyone gets the vapors, must mean its a slow news day, so its time to gin up controversy. After all, it is news that it was presented to both P and P.E. regardless of veracity.

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  • I admit, I was compelled to read BF's post. It may not be verified or substantiated but all news on that document certainly came to an abrupt end. After the initial reports, nothing? The news media hasn't touched it? Makes you wonder?

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  • I don't think it matters one way or another. Many sitting presidents did not attend the inauguration of the incoming presidenst as a form of protest. He will never outdo Obama's first inauguration which was the largest attendance ever in Washington, D.C. over 1.8 million people! I was there! No protests! It was wonderful!

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