As a political columnist for the Montgomery County Sentinel, I am fortunate to have a ringside seat to a period in our nation's history like no other.
Still, as interesting and fascinating as I find covering this White House and Congress, it is also frustrating beyond words as the members of the press are subjected to a continuous barrage by both the current president and the members of his press office of misinformation, spin, avoidance, side-stepping, condescension, insults, threats, and downright lies.
I can't say it hasn't crossed my mind to wonder what it would be like if everyone in the White House press room decided enough is enough and simply got up and walked out together, in unison, as one body, in protest. Now, quite honestly, that will never happen, nor should it for some very important reasons.
The thought of a press walkout first crossed my mind during the Trump campaign. Who can ever forget the sight at his campaign rallies of the press loaded into what appeared as a holding pen of sorts at the rear of the facility with Trump shouting inane accusations and insults at the press while at the same time riling up his rally audience to a frenzy and to the point of them becoming threatening to the caged press?
MSNBC's Katy Tur wrote in her book, “Unbelievable,” how she had to be escorted out of one of Trump's rallies by security for fear of her safety after he singled her out with a vicious verbal attack. It is safe to say that she is not the only member of the media who has feared for his or her safety as a result of Trump's continuous attacks on the freedom of the press and the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Brian Karem, Executive Editor of this newspaper, has often said his fear is for the safety of the young reporter out in Middle America covering a county fair who falls victim to the violence of some “nut” wearing a Make America Great Again hat in honor of Trump.
However, how would Trump react to the cameras being turned off, no television coverage, no print coverage, no seeing his face adorned to the front pages of newspapers and magazines? How would he react to no major media attention; you know, the free media coverage that actually helped get him elected? How would he react if the unending feeding of his oversized ego suddenly ended?
Quite obviously, based on Trump's unquenchable thirst for notoriety as evidenced by his extensive history of calling news outlets using fictitious names to share stories about himself, the answer is not very well. Who can ever forget Trump’s use of the name John Barron to spread stories about himself to select media outlets? Apparently not Trump, since he liked the name so much he named his son after his own “fake” name.
However, the actual answer is we shall never know, AND nor should we. The reason for this is quite simple. First, to be an effective strategy everyone must walk out. That would include right wing outlets as well as left wing outlets and every outlet in between.
Since FOX News, as the official Trump media outlet, would never participate in such a walkout, a partial walkout would result in the public being limited to having only right wing coverage available. That would do far more harm than good.
Second, and far more important, as members of the press we should NEVER consider such a tactic since, to do so, would give the likes of a president such as Trump exactly what he wants: a silent press. There is a reason why the First Amendment to the Constitution is first; it is because it is so important to our democracy. The responsibility of the press serving as the fourth estate should never be taken lightly and is not by all those who have dedicated themselves to a career in journalism.
With that commitment comes responsibility.
Those of us responsible for providing the public with all the information they need to enable them to make informed decisions regarding how to vote and for whom to vote and for how to judge issues before them must never give up.
It is the responsibility of the press to provide as much information to the public as can be gathered no matter how limited that information may be or how limited our access to that information may be due to the resistance and barriers thrown up by those who make the news.
Yes, it is frustrating that the president of the United States has held exactly one open press conference in his year and a half in office. Certainly this president feels most comfortable limiting his access to the press to a few questions shouted at him after some meeting or during a mad scramble to a helicopter and being able to pick and choose which he will answer and which he will ignore or make believe he can't hear. No such luxury in a full-blown press conference.
Twitter you say? Obviously his preferred use of Twitter is based on its one-way approach: he tweets what he wants and never has to respond to the many questions his tweets raise.
As for the daily press briefings, when one of the most heard answers by the White House Press Secretary to questions from reporters is “I haven't spoken to the president on that,” the obvious next question is “why not?” Still waiting for the answer to that one but won't ever give up on seeking it!