Members of the incoming Trump administration are floating ideas that would radically bring changes to the White House Press Corps. All of the suggested changes would benefit Trump by allowing the White House to intimidate journalists into compliance while restricting the free flow of information from the White House to the American people.
Trump’s incoming Chief of Staff Reince Priebus suggested that big changes are coming to the White House press corps, “Look, I think that many things have to change, and I think that it’s important that we look at all of those traditions that are great, but quite frankly, as you know, don’t really make news. And you know, even looking at things like the daily White House briefing from the press secretary, I mean, there’s a lot of different ways that things can be done, and I can assure you we’re looking at that.”
CNN’s Brian Stelter said that reporters are concerned about the potential changes:
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) December 15, 2016
The changes that have been suggested have included doing away with the White House daily press briefing, getting rid of the president’s weekly address, and perhaps moving the White House press corps out of the White House.
All of these potential changes are designed to accomplish two goals. The Trump administration wants a compliant press that fits in with Trump’s belief that the media should be nothing more than glorified transcription praise machines. Trump has been avoiding the press for nearly seven months. This is not an administration that is going to engage and answer questions from the political press. By limiting entry to the White House, Trump is going to force journalists to trade objective coverage for access. In other words, the president-elect wants to transform our free press into state-run media.
The second goal behind the potential changes is to limit the amount of information coming out of the White House to the public. Donald Trump loves Twitter because he can unilaterally blast out messages.
Journalists can’t question Trump in real time on Twitter, and if they do, he doesn’t have to answer. Trump has complete control of the message. The president-elect’s Twitter account is what he would like his White House media operation to emulate.
Trump is not going to give the public information. His campaign didn’t value transparency, so it is logical to assume that his administration won’t be transparent. The president-elect will restrict information and tell the American people only what he wants them to hear on his terms through his chosen platforms. None of this is how a president is supposed to operate in a democracy.
Donald Trump loves publicity but hates the press. White House journalists should expect the Trump administration to transform the White House press office into a public relations operation.
The free flow information is critical to our democracy, and a free press is a mechanism through which information moves from elected officials to the public. By undermining the flow of information, the Trump administration could turn the nation’s free press into a propaganda machine.
It is up to both journalists and the American people to make sure that the incoming administration understands that any changes to the ability of the White House press corps to gather and report information will not be tolerated.
The government belongs to the people, and the people have a right to be informed about what their government is doing.