Thomas Jefferson once said, “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Media is often referred to as the fourth branch of government, working as a watchdog for the American people. But in order to protect the citizens of a free society, transparency of the government is absolutely vital. Free press is a part of the very foundation of our government.
The White House furthered tensions with this foundation Friday when they refused to allow certain publications into an off-camera briefing with press secretary Sean Spicer.
When reporters from CNN attempted to access the press briefing in the White House, they along with reporters from the New York Times, Politico, The Hill, BBC, Los Angeles Times and New York Daily News, were denied access, according to the Hill.
These organizations were not on the hand picked list of major publications allowed in the gaggle, according to the Hill. While these reporters were left out, Fox, NBC, CBS, Breitbart, the Washington Times and others were allowed in.
Now, as the leader of the free world, the relationship between Trump’s administration and the media has increasingly gotten worse.
“Apparently this is how they retaliate when you report facts they don’t like. We’ll keep reporting regardless,” CNN said in a statement Friday.
It’s not unheard of for press secretaries to host off-camera briefings with expanded pools but when Spicer invited a majority of conservative leaning publications to gain specific information, it raised concern.
“Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties. We strongly protest the exclusion of The New York Times and the other news organizations. Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest,” said Dean Baquet, executive editor for the New York Times, in a statement.
Reporters from the Associated Press and Time magazine were invited, but refused to attend in protest.
“AP believes the public should have as much access to the president as possible,” said Lauren Easton, the AP’s director of media relations, in an official statement.
This action follows the repeated attacks on press outlets from President Donald Trump, the majority of which can be found on his personal twitter account.
“FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn’t tell the truth. A great danger to our country. The failing @nytimes has become a joke. Likewise @CNN. Sad!” the commander in chief tweeted on Feb. 24.
Since before he took office, Trump has consistently attempted to demonize the media, claiming publications were reporting false information in order to make him look bad. To say this is alarming would be an understatement.
The people of the United States rely on journalists to report the truth without bias. Even though it is apparent most organizations have at least some bias today, denying access to major publications should not be tolerated.
For the government to leave media publications at the door leads the people to believe there is something to hide; that the administration wants the public to see them in a certain light.
Conservatives have consistently preached that the government should have less control, so for a conservative administration to try and control what the press reports and who reports it is hypocritical, to say the least.
Friday’s actions have caused media outlets, journalist organizations and student journalists to worry. At present moment, the future of the press and it’s relationship with the White House is unknown.
All we can hope for is that publications still fight for access, stand together and report the facts.