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“Enough Is Enough”: It’s Time For Reporters To Break Out Of The Trump Rally Press Pens

Is the only thing more shocking than Donald Trump’s campaign manager being charged with simple battery of a reporter the fact that the crime isn’t all that startling, given the bullying campaign’s open contempt for reporters?

Enough is enough.

With Trump’s top aide, Corey Lewandowski, now facing charges, focus has shifted back to the increasingly abusive relationship between the GOP front-runner and the campaign press, and the unprecedented barrage of attacks journalists have faced, including constant insults hurled at them by the candidate himself. (Reporters are “disgusting” “horrible people,” Trump regularly announces.)

Sadly, news organizations have brought some of the degradation on themselves by acquiescing to all kinds of Trump campaign demands, such as the rule that they camp out inside mandatory press pens at events. Basically, the Trump campaign disparages the media, and news organizations do nothing in response — except shower him with even more coverage. (Talk about a win-win for him.)

“For ratings and clicks, they’ve allowed themselves to be penned up like farm animals at his rallies and risked scuffles with the Secret Service for covering the events like actual reporters,” wrote Eliana Johnson at National Review.

In fact, the press pens have become a hallmark of Trump’s war on the press.

“Unlike other presidential campaigns, which generally allow reporters and photographers to move around at events, Trump has a strict policy requiring reporters and cameramen to stay inside a gated area, which the candidate often singles out for ridicule during his speeches,” Time reported.

And Time should know.

In February, a Secret Service agent lifted Time photographer Chris Morris up off the ground and choke-slammed him onto a table after Morris momentarily “stepped out of the press pen to photograph a Black Lives Matter protest that interrupted the speech.”

It’s long past time for journalists to demand their freedom from Trump press pens. It’s like deciding to finally stop taking Trump’s phone-in interviews. Escaping from the pens represents a simple way for news organizations to assert their obvious right to cover the Trump campaign on their own terms, rather than being penned in at campaign events and living in fear of having access denied if coverage is deemed to be too critical.

Covering the Trump campaign on a daily basis today appears to be a rather miserable media existence. Reporters are threatened by staffers, and the Trump communications team seems to be utterly nonresponsive to media inquires. (“There is no Trump press operation,” one reporter told Slate.)

But it’s even worse than that. Just ask CBS News reporter Sopan Deb. In January at a Trump rally in Reno, a Trump supporter demanded to know if Deb was taking pictures on behalf of ISIS. Then, in March, after Trump’s raucous would-be rally in Chicago was canceled, Deb was covering mayhem unfolding on the streets when he was “thrown to the ground by Chicago cops, handcuffed, arrested, and detained in jail.”

I give journalists on the Trump beat credit for trying to make the best of a very bad situation. My question is why aren’t bosses standing up more forcefully for their staffers on the Trump front line? Why aren’t executives saying “enough” to the campaign bullying? And why don’t they take collective action and fix the obvious problems with how the Trump campaign is mistreating the press?

In case you missed it, last year 17 journalists representing scores of news organizations met for two hours in Washington, D.C., because they were so angry with how Hillary Clinton’s campaign was limiting access for journalists.

“The problems discussed were the campaign’s failure to provide adequate notice prior to events, the lack of a clear standard for whether fundraisers are open or closed press and the reflexive tendency to opt to speak anonymously,” The Huffington Post reported.

Looking back, the press’s Clinton complaints seem minor compared to the disrespect and invective the Trump campaign rains down on the press. But at the time, news organizations banded together and insisted that changes be made. (“The Clinton campaign is far less hostile to reporters than Donald Trump’s campaign,” The Huffington Post recently noted.)

So why the relative silence in light of the constant Trump mistreatment of the press? Why did news outlets quickly marshal their forces when Democrat Clinton was the target of criticism, but they apparently do very little when the Republican front-runner is trampling all over the press? Why the obvious double standard for covering Trump and Clinton?

Note that last November, several news organizations discussed their concerns with the Trump campaign. “Representatives from five networks — ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and CNN — discussed their concerns about the Trump campaign restrictions on a Monday conference call, but did not present the campaign with any specific access requests,” according to The Huffington Post.

But very little came of it. “Facing the risk of losing their credentialed access to Trump’s events, the networks capitulated,” BuzzFeed reported.

Indeed, in the wake of that meeting, press pens at Trump rallies have recently become even more restrictive, with longer avenues of exit and entries created to separate journalists even further from rally attendees.

More recently, BuzzFeed reported, “Two network sources also confirmed the unprecedented control the television networks have surrendered to Trump in a series of private negotiations, allowing him to dictate specific details about placement of cameras at his event, to ensure coverage consists primarily of a single shot of his face.”

So yes, news organizations have had behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Trump campaign. But the result has been to let Trump “dictate specific details about place of cameras at his event.”

Just amazing.

And note that it’s not just the press pens. Here’s a list of the news organizations that have had reporters banned from previous Trump events, presumably because the campaign didn’t like the news coverage: The Des Moines Register, Fusion, The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Politico, The Huffington Post, National Review, The Daily Beast, and Univision.

Over and over we’ve seen this pattern play out: Report something negative about Trump and watch your press credentials get yanked. This kind of bullying, of course, is unprecedented for American presidential campaigns. The tactic goes against every principle of a free press, inhibiting the news media’s unique role in our democracy to inform the public, without fear or favor.

Yet to date, I’m not aware of outlets banding together to make concrete ultimatums in response to the Trump campaign’s bullying. Instead of collective action, we get sporadic, nonbinding complaints from editors.

But what kind of signal does that send, other than capitulation?

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, March 31, 2016

April 1, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Press, Donald Trump, Journalists, Reporters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Need To Exercise Judgment”: When The First And Second Amendments Clash

Battles over either the First Amendment or the Second Amendment often share similar dynamics, with defender/exercisers of the amendments arguing that the freedoms granted by the founding fathers are (nearly) absolute, and should not be modified just because sometimes people get hurt by them. But the issue gets stickier when a situation pits the First against the Second.

A newspaper in White Plains, N.Y., has enraged local (and not-so-local) gun owners by publishing an interactive map revealing the names and addresses of gun owners in the area. The information is public (and New York’s Freedom of Information Law is fairly expansive), so it’s not as though the newspaper unearthed secret documents or data and published it. What’s different now is that the Internet and other technology allows a newspaper—and for that matter, any blogger or website commentator—to make public information very, very public—so much so that the people affected feel they have been violated.

Some of the gun owners reacted aggressively, posting the names and addresses of editors and reporters at the Journal-News (including the guy who does the puzzle page) and making not-so-veiled threats against the journalists’ safety. The Journal-News has been unfazed, and is seeking similar gun owner information from another county to publish. That county is balking, and the paper is ready to go to court. Since the information is public, experts believe the paper will likely win, a victory for the First Amendment.

Meanwhile, the paper has been forced to hire armed guards at two of its offices to protect employees in light of the threats. That, in a way, is a victory for the gun owners and their interpretation, at least, of the Second Amendment. The First Amendment is in full force on the paper’s website, but without the Second Amendment, editors and reporters might not feel safe publishing it. On the other hand, were so many guns not so easily available, perhaps they might not have felt threatened in the first place.

There will surely be a discussion in Washington—though perhaps not much action—on gun safety and gun rights. And newspapers will continue to defend the right to free speech. But in both cases, there’s an issue of sheer judgment. Sure, some information is available to the public and should be. Does that mean newspapers should make it that much easier to learn? Some newspapers routinely report the names and salaries of public employees—even low-level employees. It’s not secret, and the workers are paid by public funds. But is it really necessary to publish what most of us consider private information? There’s an undercurrent of judgment to such lists, as though the public employees have to defend every penny they make (while well-paid CEOs of privately-held companies do not).

The names of convicted sex offenders are also public. Should newspapers publish these names, perhaps with an interactive map? To a parent, the answer might be a no-brainer; wouldn’t you want to know if a pedophile was living in the neighborhood? But publication of such information also makes it virtually impossible for an ex-con to return to society. He or she would be shunned, even in danger, wherever he went. How does someone become part of a noncriminal community in those circumstances?

Gun owners are not by definition criminals, of course. But guns are dangerous weapons if they are in the wrong hands or if there is an accident. Surely, many people would want to know if someone in their neighborhood had a gun. But is the publication of the information itself not just a little provocative? And perhaps it’s also a bit revealing—the anonymous people who posted threatening comments on the Internet (along with the addresses of Journal-News employees) probably weren’t the sort of people, prior to the controversy, neighbors feared would shoot them. But their aggressive reaction to the Journal-News list suggests some of them might have a dangerous streak.

Exercisers of the First and Second Amendments are understandably vigilant in defending their beliefs. But both should exercise judgment as well.

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, January 3, 2013

January 4, 2013 Posted by | Constitution | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In Politics Of Temper Tantrums, Washington Post As Spineless As GOP In Debt Ceiling Debate

Yesterday, The Washington Post editorial page turned into Springfield, circa 1991. Not Springfield, Illinois or Springfield, Massachusetts. That more famous Springfield. The one that’s home to the Simpsons.

You see, 20 years ago Lisa Simpson wished for a world in which every nation laid down its arms and there was peace. And it was done. But then two crafty aliens landed in Springfield and took over the earth, armed only with a slingshot and a club.

What does that have to do with The Washington Post? Well, we’re just days into the debate about raising the debt ceiling and they’ve already given up.

Here’s what I mean:

Every politician knows that voting to raise the debt ceiling, particularly in an electoral environment like this one, is dangerous. Large swaths of the electorate are opposed. And the most angry and energized conservatives have made it an article of faith to punish legislators who facilitate more government spending. Voting to raise the debt ceiling is a tough vote–politically.

But on the merits, it’s got to be one of the easiest votes ever. Everyone from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich agrees that we must raise the debt ceiling. That’s true of just about every economist of every political stripe, too. They say that if we don’t it will lead America, and perhaps the global economy, to literal economic ruin. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Democrats are on board. They’re pushing for a “clean” vote on the debt ceiling—an up or down vote on that issue alone. In essence they’re saying: let’s do what needs to be done and get it over with. Then we can move on to the myriad other pressing matters confronting the nation. 

Republicans are in a different place. They’re making increasingly belligerent demands to tie various kinds of “reforms” to the debt ceiling vote. Deep spending cuts. A balanced budget amendment. Caps on future spending. All sorts of things that may or may not have merit, but which are also deeply partisan and political. And they say they won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling unless their demands are met—if they vote for it at all.

Their position in a nutshell: I’m a Republican and I’m not going to prevent economic ruin unless I get these other things that I really, really, really want. It’s the politics of temper tantrum. Only this time the baby’s got his finger on the nuclear launch codes.

Cue the media. There’s a reason “freedom of the press” is enshrined in the First Amendment. It’s because the Founding Fathers envisioned a Fourth Estate that held government accountable at times just like these.

Instead, we get this: buried in the sixth paragraph of yesterday’s editorial about Standard and Poor’s, the Post dismisses the idea of a “clean vote” saying it’s “unrealistic as a political matter” because “you couldn’t get enough Republican votes in the House to increase the debt limit without some spending cuts attached.”

Well, I guess that’s that. The Republicans have rattled their slingshot and the Post editorial page has fled for the hills.

What’s even more galling is that you needed look no further than the front page of yesterday’s Post to see just how political the issue has become for Republicans. There, Philip Rucker told the sad story of Arizona freshman Republican Rep. David Schweikert. Schweikert concedes that failing to raise the debt ceiling will cause economic chaos, but then he surveys the angry faces of his Tea Party constituents in town hall after town hall and wrings his hands. Destroying the economy on one hand and lessening my chances for reelection on the other…oh what is a Republican to do!

Here’s an idea: suck it up and do the right thing. Vote for the bill and, if you lose your re-election, well, at least you have the comfort of knowing that you didn’t help ruin the world’s economy. Isn’t that what we say we want from our leaders? To take tough votes and put aside personal, ideological, or political goals when the nation’s interest calls for it?

Of course, as much as I would like to think otherwise, my saying so probably won’t encourage Republicans to do much of anything. If only there were an influential, well-respected, credible voice with a broad reach whose job it was to offer opinions like that… Sigh.

Perhaps not all is lost. In the aforementioned Simpsons episode the aliens are eventually vanquished when Moe the bartender hammers a nail through a board and chases them with it. There are a couple months to go in this debate. There’s still time for the Post to find its spine. Someone get them a nail and a board.

By: Anson Kaye, U.S. News and World Report, April 21, 2011

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Ideology, Jobs, Journalists, Koch Brothers, Media, Politics, Press, Pundits, Republicans, U.S. Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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