Lord knows I’ve expressed my share of criticism for the mainstream media this election season. I stand by it. There has been improvement over the last month, and a lot of that is due to the pushback journalists and editors received online from consumers, writers, and colleagues. So much of the problem can be attributed to the pure insanity of this entire campaign. Breaking news items that would have received days of coverage even four years ago barely catch a glance before six other headlines rush in to take their place. We live, we learn, and we vow to do better in the future.
Behind the words and bylines are real people. Men and women who spend months on the road covering the candidates, living out of suitcases, missing their families and friends back at home. They are brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles…they belong to people. I think we tend to forget their humanity sometimes.
The Trump campaign’s problems with the media started almost immediately last summer, when The Donald banned multiple organizations to some degree: Univision (for canceling the pageant), Buzzfeed (for a profile piece on Trump), Politico (for a story on Lewendowdki’s temperament), The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, The Washington Post, and the Des Moines Register. It was September before access was reinstated. The reporters were able to attend events as private citizens, if they could get in, but they had no special access, privileges, or guarantees.
Katy Tur, a journalist with NBC, wrote for Marie Claire in August about her year on the trail with Trump. Six months in, she angered him, and he singled her out in front of a large crowd at one of his rallies. The backlash was so quick and violent, she had to be escorted to her car by the Secret Service.
In March, CBS reporter Sopan Deb was arrested and temporarily detained after getting caught up in the midst of a group of protesters. He was released after video proved he was not resisting arrest. Later, in September, Vice News reporter and former assistant to Maureen Dowd, Alex Thompson, was arrested in the lobby while trying to procure his press pass to the event.
As his poll numbers have dropped, Trump’s rhetoric against the “rigged media” has grown more heated. He seems to take a perverse pleasure in ruling up his crowds against them, while they are stuck in a press pen (an unprecedented situation itself). Attendees walk by and shout obscenities, spit, take pictures, and otherwise act like animals who never learned how to eat with utensils. A few days ago one left a sign with a Nazi swastika and the word “media” on it.
Trump’s first response to the NYT story was to threaten to sue. He already managed to have stories about Melania pulled, because those outlets did not have the money to risk fighting him.
The unprecedented statement from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) declared Trump to be a threat to press freedoms throughout the world. It includes all his threats as well as his threat in February 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.”
The Washington Post reports today:
Reporters are now concealing or removing their press credentials when leaving the pen to avoid confrontations with Trump’s supporters. The atmosphere is particularly threatening to female reporters and to female TV reporters whose faces are well known, reporters say.
On Thursday, Trump said the news media was part of a “global conspiracy” working in concert with Hillary Clinton to destroy his candidacy. He kept it up Friday, denouncing reports that he had sexually assaulted women as “lies” and saying, “the corrupt media is doing everything in their power to stop this movement.”
These are real people, simply trying to do a job…bring us the news. And Donald Trump is making that very difficult, possibly even dangerous. And he’s just a candidate right now; could you imagine him as president?