With the Trump administration taking over the White House in less than a week, many in the media and journalism industries have expressed concerns over his attitude towards the free press. Mr. Trump has so far outright banned news organizations critical of him from covering his press conferences, made claims that he will sue journalists that are critical of him or his administration, told his constituents that he will expand libel laws to restrict criticism, and has suggested that reporters will be banned when he is in the White House.
The press got their first taste of what it will be like to work under a Trump administration last Wednesday. During his press conference, Mr. Trump refused to acknowledge or answer a question from Jim Acosta, a CNN reporter, concerning allegations that the Russian government had incriminating information on the president-elect, and could use such information to blackmail and extort him. Dismayed by Mr. Trump’s attitude, a journalist has decided to take a stand on what he believes is a repressive stance against a free and open press.
The editor and chief of the Columbia Journalism Review, Kyle Pope, has penned an open letter to the president-elect on behalf of his fellow journalists to “clarify the relationship between his administration and the American press.” The letter contained eight points that he believes American journalists should fight for, including a strong belief in an objective truth, a higher standard of ethics in journalism, and media control over air time.
Pope has stated that the free press is too resilient to be overcome by any of the incoming president’s attempts to squash it.
“We are very good at finding alternative ways to get information,” he said. “Telling reporters that they won’t get access to something isn’t what we’d prefer, but it’s a challenge we relish.”
Perhaps the biggest point in his letter, Pope has called for a unity of the press, in response to Mr. Trump last week targeting a specific journalist, Jim Acosta, and the network he represented, CNN. Pope believes his call for solidarity between different press outlets will counter the threat of infighting or the prospect of media outlets being divided and then conquered.
“We now recognize that the challenge of covering you requires that we cooperate and help one another whenever possible,” Pope said, addressing Mr. Trump. “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.”
While Pope’s letter paints the media in an oppressed state, it ended on an optimistic note, stating that ultimately the truth will win out in the end.
The free press has “been around since the founding of the Republic,” Pope said in his letter, “and its role in this great democracy has been ratified and reinforced again and again and again.”