By Lauren Grimaldi
The media has long been referred to as the “Fourth Estate” of our government. Political journalism, when done right, is supposed to give citizens a true look inside of government and the decisions that are made by political figures every day. However, it becomes incredibly harder for journalists to do their jobs if elected officials restrict them in unprecedented ways.
President-elect Donald Trump ran his campaign on a myriad of hate and still won. He condemned Hispanics, Muslims, and the press among other various groups. While his outright racism against so many is absolutely deplorable, it is his restrictions of the press that seem to be continually overlooked.
Earlier on in his campaign, Trump threatened to open up the libel laws on the press. “I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money…so when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected,” Trump said at a rally in February, according to Politico.
Since then, the candidate openly let members of the press be threatened by his rally attendees, incited violence against journalists, and outright restricted certain media organizations from attending his rallies. For months, outfits like the Washington Post, Politico, and the Huffington Post were barred from covering his events until late September.
And now that he has been elected as the 45th President of the United States, the businessman’s treatment of the press has not changed. It is traditional for the President-elect to have a press pool that follows them around once they are elected.
However, Trump has already restricted this in multiple ways. Upon his initial meeting with President Obama just days after the election, Trump limited access to press throughout the entirety of this day. Then, days after that, the President-elect failed to inform the press pool designated to cover him that he would be leaving Trump Tower to go to dinner. While it may seem as if it would be unimportant for media to be present for this event, it remains that it is readily imperative for citizens to have a record of where the leader of the free world is at all times.
These latest developments sparked ire amongst members of the media and have even caused journalism associations to write a letter to the Trump administration.
“The idea of a press pool that covers all of the president’s movements is one that dates back to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration. Every president of both parties has treated this important tradition with respect. The role of the press pool is critically important to our country whose citizens depend on and deserve to know what the president is doing. This isn’t about access for the press itself; it’s about access for Americans in diverse communities across the country.
“Your constituents receive information from a variety of platforms to learn about what our president is doing,” the letter said, according to Poynter.
Of course, it’s very well possible that Trump will treat the media along more traditional lines once he gets inaugurated. However, it is not at all normal for the future President of the United States to tweet about the “Failing New York Times” in the early morning as he attempts to pivot into a position of responsibility that he knows nothing about.
If his campaign told us anything about how he’ll be as president, it’s clear that precedent and tradition will be nothing but memories. Though he may not be able to get some of his more radical platform possibilities passed through Congress, he can easily restrict the press from his administration in ways never seen in the United States. A free press is vital to any democracy that wishes to continue on, and it is now unfortunately under threat of reaching its demise moreso now than ever.