Tuesday, January 17, 2017

TWF 272: An Open Letter Defending The Washington Post's Credentials, Removed By Donald Trump.

CC: Mr. President-Elect Donald Trump, my fellow Americans

Editorial Note: For the purpose of context - I was under the impression that the Washington Post Credentials Story was a new one. Much of the original article lacks more than maybe one time-sensitive context (the word "nominee" is used), and the fault is mine for the conveyed sense of urgency this article has. I clearly either missed or forgot I even encountered the article at the time of its publication. Then again, with the way Trump treated CNN, this article should not be seen as anything more than out of alignment with time-and-space. The underlying alarm-bells are still very real.
Ordinarily, I don't focus this space on anything besides local, county, or at most state-wide news. With very few exceptions, perhaps none that I can name without searching in depth, I have never taken on a national issue with this publication because I avoid infusing national politics into this venue, entirely. I've chosen it only because at this moment it is the most powerful one I have, and while it's certainly not powerful I'm certainly not staying out of this one. This is an open letter directly to the American People, with a special asterisk for our soon-to-be commander-in-chief, Donald Trump, the President-Elect who in a few days will assume control over a uni-polar Congress with a (probably unconstitutionally stolen from his predecessor) Supreme Court pick, to top it off.
I'm writing this letter because according to a news article by The Washington Post, their press credentials have been pulled by Donald Trump's team due to whatever allegations he wanted to conjure up against them. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/trump-revokes-post-press-credentials-calling-the-paper-dishonest-and-phony/2016/06/13/f9a61a72-31aa-11e6-95c0-2a6873031302_story.html?utm_term=.07e9e5bfabe6) I have no love for the Washington Post after the way they treated Bernie Sanders, and I will never forget the sixteen-hour, sixteen-article blitz they threw down on him as his momentum started to build. They are frequently inaccurate, or at least vague about their points.
Nevertheless, this is a bridge too far.
The First Amendment is first for a reason. It's the written-into-the-DNA core of any Enlightenment-descendant democracy. You might not agree with what a publication puts out, but it isn't for any President to determine who is or isn't "real news" based on the fact that they don't always give him glowing, prestigious headlines.
Forget that Brietbart News, a sort of Daily Stormer-Lite has access to the President; they in fact took the question that should have gone to CNN at Trump's press release. Instead, imagine if Trump simply bans CNN, next. If he bans NBC. If he bans anyone who reports anything he considers unflattering - in particular if it's the truth. When "I dislike this information," and even, "I consider these reports ill-informed and inaccurate, but thanks for asking" leads to, "I will simply remove them from access entirely," the entire nation suffers. How many years did Donald Trump hound Barack Obama over his birth certificate, a rumor most certainly and undoubtedly spawned by racism.
Who will he replace them with? Infowars? I assume Steve Bannon would at least convince Jones to get an new name. After all: Now, the "info" would flow freely and honestly, without PC veils and dishonesty, straight from the President to the psycho himself! There'd be no "InfoWar" whatsoever, just the truths that Alex Jones invents...So long as they stayed favorable to Trump.
Imagine an America where the President appoints and removes news agencies' ability to get first-hand information from his administration at will. Without warning, no negotiation necessary, Trump has removed access from a newspaper which has existed since 1877, one whose print circulation hovers just under 500,000 and whose online reach is limitless in large part because of its sort-of-still-new owner, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' (I'm sorry, "Nash Holdings LLC's") incredible power. Perhaps Trump is simply striking out at Bezos for some reason; perhaps he views Bezos as a wealthy, well-equipped potential rival in anticipation of a struggle to put his agenda on America's table.
That is not an excuse to pull their press credentials without even warning them or offering advice to reform their practices.
I'm sure someone will find some case where a President's administration has limited a particular publication. Perhaps President Obama at one point constrained Fox News, which published far less accurate and honest, to say nothing of politically-neutral content. Perhaps they are right. That does not suddenly justify Trump's decision. It simply means others were wrong, too.
Perhaps, Mr. President-Elect, you will look at my invocation of the First Amendment and say something like, "Well, Congress isn't passing any such law, the President is just acting the way he has a right to with the media." You might be right. That does not make this the right decision, and it certainly doesn't mean that a standing threat to either publish flattering material or face the revocation of access is an acceptable approach for any administration to have in a Democracy.
Far and away, before he has even taken office Donald Trump has taken aim at a much-maligned, but often honest-intentioned institution. That institution is derided as "mainstream media," but if you stop and think about it part of the reason they are "mainstream" is because they fulfill basic tenets of journalism on a basic, if not sufficiently advanced level. I have no real love for the Washington Post. I prefer The Economist. I am absolutely concerned that Jeff Bezos may abuse the publication for political gain. Is that any different than Donald Trump and the time that The National Enquirer allegedly bought a story of Trump having an affair for $150,000? Or the fact that Trump's best Neo-Nazi (I'm sorry, "Alt-Right") publisher friend Steve Bannon, head of Breitbart news, is suddenly going to be a chief strategist with undissolvable ties to his old press room?
Or does this maybe all have to do with the time that The Washington Post exposed links between Trump and The Enquirer? An occurrence which was - I admit - commented on at times by others such as Vanity Fair and Bloomberg?
I think you and I, dear reader, have both hit a point of exhaustion. I hope that I have convinced you to at least reconsider the pulling of The Washington Post's credentials. I hope you will reconsider your approach to the media, in general. I think the rest of America will agree it's time for them to do the same.

My warmest regards,
--Jesse Pohlman