Letter to the Editor–White House press briefing controversy

In Letters to the Editor, Opinion

The members of the Cal State Fullerton chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists stand in solidarity with the media outlets excluded from Friday’s White House press briefing and denounce the Trump administration’s decision to exclude them.

President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, barred journalists from the New York Times, BuzzFeed News, CNN, the BBC, Politico, the Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times and other media organizations from attending a daily briefing at the White House, according to multiple reports.

Journalists from The Washington Times, Breitbart News and Fox News were all reportedly allowed into the briefing. The New York Times described this occurrence as “a highly unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps.” Although The Associated Press and Time were invited to the briefing, they chose not to attend in protest.

Executive editor of the New York Times, Dean Baquet, said of the incident, “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.”

While the White House is downplaying the significance of this incident, it happened on the same day as Trump’s appearance before the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) where he spoke about “fighting the fake news,” criticized members of the press for using anonymous sources and for not fulfilling their duties to do honest reporting.

Friday evening, he also tweeted: “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 fact that the media outlets Trump has attacked for their critical coverage are some of the same ones that were not allowed into Friday’s briefing is unacceptable. It endangers the very concept of freedom of the press. It is not the job of journalists to flatter powerful people or keep them happy. The job of a journalist is to learn the facts and report them to the public. When journalists are barred from media briefings, the free flow of information is brought to a halt. This not only impedes journalists from doing their job, but it prevents members of the public from making wholly informed decisions.

“As they have for hundreds of years, journalists will continue to be a pillar of democracy by ethically and thoroughly reporting on the presidency. The Society of Professional Journalists will have their backs,” said Andrew Seaman, the SPJ ethics committee chair.

We encourage anyone who feels that Friday’s incident was unacceptable to use the hashtag #PressthePrez to remind the White House that a free press means ALL press.

The Cal State Fullerton Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists

Feb. 26, 2017

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