The Obama White House famously promised to become the most transparent administration in history, but over the next eight years, it turned that promise in its head, obfuscating the (adoring) media to the point where the Associated Press was running articles about the unprecedented restrictions. In 2013, the AP’s Nancy Benac slammed the Obama administration for obsessively promoting only the best, most perfectly-produced photos and videos in an unseemly effort to paint the First Family in shimmering tones of golden beauty at all times.
“At the same time,” she wrote, “it is limiting press access in ways that past administrations wouldn’t have dared, and the president is answering to the public in more controlled settings than his predecessors. It’s raising new questions about what’s lost when the White House tries to make an end run around the media, functioning, in effect, as its own news agency.”
Though most in the Washington media felt this way about the Obama administration, they nonetheless treated it as a freedom-shattering turn of events when President Trump exercised much the same level of control over his messaging. Indeed, Trump did take it a step further, preferring to go straight to Twitter with the majority of his public messages rather than see them filtered through the DC establishment media.
On the other hand, Trump has pulled back much of the access curtain that Obama had drawn across the White House, and that’s something that rarely gets the attention it deserves from the mainstream media.
This week, it did…if only briefly. At the Poynter Ethics Summit, a figure no less than Washington Post editor Marty Baron admitted that press access had actually improved under the Trump administration.
“It’s not like we had a love-fest with the Obama administration,” Baron said. “We tried for two years to get an interview. We do better with the current president in terms of access than the last one.”
Imagine that! The “current president?” You mean the one who HATES the media? The one who is trying to curtail press freedoms and turn the American people against journalists? The one who is attempting to form a dictatorship by first removing all of the free-press restrictions that would keep him from doing so? THAT “current president?” My, my.
It’s funny, isn’t it? You get these journalists behind closed doors and away from their computer screens and they suddenly find it in themselves to admit that things under Trump…actually aren’t as bad as they seem on the front pages of their newspapers. And hey, we get it. They’re making a lot of money presenting Trump as some kook who poses a once-in-a-generation threat to democracy. We just wish they would realize that those headlines – moneymakers as they might be – are actually doing more to damage the reputation of the press than Donald Trump could ever do.