- The Washington Times - Monday, January 16, 2017


Perhaps unintentionally, Politico called out the White House press corps for being asleep at the wheel for the last eight years.

In an article entitled “Trump is making journalism great again,” author Jack Shafer thanked the “incoming president for simplifying our mission.”

I always thought it was a journalists’ mission to investigate, write, report, and not be clouded by ideology. But apparently, with the Obama administration, it was hard for reporters to do so.

But not with president-elect Donald Trump.

“In his own way, Trump has set us free. Reporters must treat Inauguration Day as a kind of Liberation Day to explore news outside the usual Washington circles,” Mr. Shafer wrote, as if that’s a profound idea for journalists.

Shouldn’t reporters be talking to a variety of sources, both inside and outside the beltway, and not relying on the daily presidential press conference to set their agenda?

I guess not with President Barack Obama at the helm.

“Washington reporting has long depended on a transactional relationship between sources and journalists,” Mr. Shafer explained - as if that comes as any surprise to anyone outside the profession.

“Journalists groom sources, but sources also groom journalists. There’s nothing inherently unethical about the back-scratching. When a reporter calls an administration source to confirm an embarrassing item, the source may agree to confirm as long as the reporter at the very least agrees to listen sympathetically to the administration’s context,” he said.

Certainly that was done with Mr. Obama – and with WikiLeaks we know that was the case with Hillary Clinton. Reporters would ask her for sign-off on their stories, for quote approval, and would giddily accept assignments from her campaign staff.

But now with Mr. Trump, they’re set free — they can once again be independent — because of Mr. Trump’s hostility toward their profession, they don’t need to please him or his staff, or rely on its insider access, Mr. Shafer explained.

“The press has already started to prepare itself for a Trumpian lockout by pursuing news angles that rely less on official access than usual,” Mr. Shafer said.

He then gives examples of real journalism – investigating Mr. Trump’s potential business ties and conflicts, his Cabinet nominees, and regulatory violations. Of interviewing agency sources, and life-long bureaucrats to get their opinions. Of quizzing Republicans who openly distrust Mr. Trump, like Arizona Sen. John McCain, to try to track down leads.

It’s almost as if – because Mr. Obama was so nice to the press, and they loved him so – stories and sources like these didn’t need to be pursued by them in the Obama years.

“It’s not winter that’s coming with the inauguration of Trump. It’s journalistic spring,” Mr. Shafer concludes.

Glad to hear the press is coming out of is eight year hibernation.

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