US President-elect Donald Trump has been livid over many issues and people and the US media is one of his main targets. He has slammed media left, right and centre, going as far as to mock a disabled journalist and threaten to keep media outfits away from the White House.
Now, just two days before his inaugural, the US Press Corp has come out with a strongly worded open letter, published in the Columbia Journalism Review of Columbia University, to set things in a perspective for the next four years clearly spelling out that who will be the boss saying while “Trump has every right to decide his ground rules for engaging with the press, they have some, too. It is, after all, their airtime and column inches that Trump is seeking to influence.”
The open letter by a body representing US journalists, asserts, “We, not you, decide how best to serve our readers, listeners, and viewers. So think of what follows as a backgrounder on what to expect from us over the next four years”.
The letter categorically rebuts Donald Trump’s regular slanderous assualts and threats against media. Addressing Trump it says, “You’ve banned news organizations from covering you. You’ve taken to Twitter to taunt and threaten individual reporters and encouraged your supporters to do the same. You’ve advocated for looser libel laws and threatened numerous lawsuits of your own, none of which has materialised. You’ve avoided the press when you could and flouted the norms of pool reporting and regular press conferences. You’ve ridiculed a reporter who wrote something you didn’t like because he has a disability”.
The journalists body, through its open letter, sets rules on access to Trump’s administration, off the record statements, airtime, objectivity and cultivating and embedding news sources in the government for the next four years or in best case scenario, for the next eight years, if Donald Trump gets the second term.
Journalists say that Trump may deny them access but it will be a challenge that they will relish. The letter clears it out that ‘access is preferable, but not critical’. They say ‘attending background briefings or off-the-record social events’ will be their sole discretion and they deserve the right to give or deny airtime to Trump’s spokespersons.
They lay out terms for the quality of coverage that will be driven by objective truth. Newsworthiness is must, but not without facts. And they warn Trump they will have upper hand in covering how his policies are carried out, even if he seeks to control information.
US journalists recognize where they have failed and credit Trump to highlight it and emphasize the need to ‘regain trust’ and say that “they’ll do it through accurate, fearless reporting, by acknowledging their errors and abiding by the most stringent ethical standards they set for themselves”.
But they blame Trump of trying to create a division in the journalistic fraternity and even trying to cause family fights. The letter says those days are over now as ‘the challenge of covering Trump requires that journalists cooperate and help one another whenever possible’. The letter reiterates on its role in making the US a great Republic and expresses gratitude that “forced them to rethink the most fundamental questions about who they are and what they are here for”.