An analysis by the New York Times suggests that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has preferred questions from journalists representing non-traditional and center-right news outlets over mainstream journalists in his daily press briefings.
Historically, administrations have prioritized questions from journalists sitting in the first two rows of the briefing room, normally assigned to reporters representing mainstream media such as NPR, Associated Press, Fox News and Reuters. Spicer has avoided this tradition and has focused his attention more on “non-mainstream” journalists elsewhere in the briefing room.
In his first Q&A session on the job, Spicer granted the first question to a New York Post journalist who had written a book critical of the Clintons. His second question came from the conservative website LifeZette, founded by radio personality Laura Ingraham (who was also considered by Trump for the press secretary position). None of his first five questions in his first briefing were asked from the front two rows of mainstream outlets. He regularly gives priority during briefings to journalists from conservative-leaning titles such as Breitbart, Newsmax and One America News Network.
In comparison, former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ first five questions in the initial 2009 Obama administration press briefing went to journalists representing mainstream outlets from the first two rows in the seating chart: Associated Press, CBS News, NBC News, ABC News and CNN.
Speaking with Sean Hannity in January, Spicer defended his decision:
“There are voices and issues that the mainstream media sometimes don’t capture, and it’s important for those issues to get as much prominence as some of the mainstream ones.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association – not the administration — has doled out seating assignments in the Press Room since 1981. Additional reporters with no seat assignment stand in the aisles of the room or sit in empty seats.
White House Correspondents’ Association president and Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason is fighting back against the voices calling for cancellation of the White House Correspondents Dinner. argues the dinner is critically important in the age of Donald Trump and “fake news.”
“It’s about an opportunity to lift up good journalism, celebrate up-and-coming journalism, and celebrate the First Amendment—that’s what we’ll be doing this year. And we do encourage our member organizations to bring as many journalists as they can, because that’s what the dinner is about. It’s also about giving journalists a chance to visit with the sources they cover.”
George Condon of National Journal also pointed out that the dinner is about the First Amendment and members of the media, not the president. “Every president is unhappy with the press, although President Trump is much more vocal and more personal in his attacks. But that doesn’t affect whether you have the dinner, because it doesn’t mean we’re honoring or validating everything a president says.” Here is Mr. Condon’s interview with Tammy Haddad on a Podcast Special on the White House Correspondents Weekend.
Recent news surrounding the White House Correspondents’ Dinner has focused mainly on media outlets declining to attend due to various reasons: an administration hostile toward the media, lack of focus at the dinner on important media issues, alternative scheduled events, fostering a too-cozy relationship between the press and the administration.
Jo Miller, showrunner for Bee’s “Full Frontal” show, has said that this year’s dinner “will either be called off or it will probably be the most sinister, awkward event ever.”
Former Association president Ed Chen argues the dinner helps promote better journalism. “If you’re sitting next to a Cabinet secretary or a senior West Wing official, you have that much more time to establish a rapport with that person, and that can only help, rather than hurt.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is scheduled for Saturday April 29. Proceeds from the event will go also fund scholarships for deserving reporters-in-training.
CNN will no longer receive officials from the Trump Administration for on-air interviews and commentary, according to a report on Politico.
President Donald Trump has criticized CNN as “fake news” frequently since Election Day.
An anonymous White House official said “we’re sending surrogates to places where we think it makes sense to promote our agenda.” The official acknowledged the ban is not intended to be permanent.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied the administration was freezing out CNN, noting that he continues to take questions from the network’s journalists during regular daily briefings. He also defended the administration’s decision not to send spokespeople to the network for on-air coverage.
“I’m not going to sit around and engage with people who have no desire to actually get something right,” Spicer said at an event at George Washington University on Monday.
Several Obama White House alumni and “Keeping it 1600” podcasters have launched a new media company named “Crooked Media.”
Administration veterans Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Tommy Vietor and Dan Pfeiffer plan on expanding their podcast — renaming it to “Pod Save America” — to a multimedia platform for political activism and analysis.
Discussing the new venture, Vietor, formerly Obama’s national security spokesman, said “It’s small and bootstrapped and designed to grow over time… what we noticed is that during the campaign, people looked to us to help narrate and make sense of the day-to-day madness. And we’re the first ones to admit that we got the results totally wrong. Now they’re asking us, what can we do about Trump? How do we get involved and engaged and be more active?”
Crooked Media plans to expand into additional podcasts, video, and activist recruitment, as a social media counter to efforts on the right.
“I think the lesson from (President-elect Donald) Trump is if you’re filtering every message and idea you have through traditional media, he will swamp you with a Tweet,” Vietor said. “So we need to build up infrastructure that allows people to communicate directly with young people across the country.”
Along with Vietor, Crooked Media brings the experience of Pfeiffer as former White House senior advisor and communications director, Favreau as President Obama’s chief speechwriter, and White House speechwriter Lovett.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), nominee for Attorney General under President-election Donald Trump’s incoming administration, dodged a question posed to him during his Senate confirmation hearings on whether he would prosecute journalists for their work.
During the confirmation hearing, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) asked Sessions whether he would continue current regulations in the Justice Department that require federal prosecutors to receive approval for subpoenaing or prosecuting reporters. She probed him to pledge not to “put reporters in jail for doing their job.”
His answer was non-committal.
“Senator Klobuchar, I am not sure,” Sessions replied. “I have not studied that, those regulations. I would note that when I was the United States Attorney, we knew, everybody knew, that you could not subpoena a witness or push them to be interviewed if they’re a member of the media, without approval at high levels of the Department of Justice. That was in the 1980s. So I do believe the Department of Justice does have sensitivity to this issue.”
He expanded his answer to take a pessimistic view on journalists reporting about classified information from sources in the federal government.
“For the most part, there is a broadly recognized and proper deference to the news media,” he testified. “But you could have a situation in which media’s not the unbiased media we seen today, and they could be a mechanism through which unlawful intelligence is obtained. There are other dangers that could happen with regard to the federal government that normally doesn’t happen to the media covering murder cases in the states.”
Sessions has opposed a federal shield law in the past, which would prevent journalists from being forced to reveal their confidential sources during investigations by the federal government.
Past Attorneys General, including Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder both serving in the Obama administration, publicly pledged not to imprison journalists. The Obama administration has subpoenaed reporters to testify in cases prosecuting government employees. Members of the media refusing to comply were threatened with jail time. Although no journalists were jailed during the current administration.
The motto for Jim VandeHei, Politico co-founder and CEO of the new news venture Axios, is that “media is broken.” One way he hopes to fix it starts with how the industry obsesses on advertising revenue and site clicks, with journalistic quality an afterthought. He will have at his side, Washington’s top political journalist, Mike Allen.
The political and business news outlet began with a pre-launch platform Monday including an introductory slate of newsletter offerings and will launch in full Jan. 18. The company begins with the premise that banner ads and long-form native advertising don’t work.
In its place, Axios will only offer advertisers a type of short-form branded content. It will fit all on one screen and will lie more naturally within its editorial concept of providing readers bite-size bits of hard news and information.
“People want more digestible news. They want it shorter and more shareable, so it makes no sense to not have ads structured the same way,” says VandeHei. “To keep doing the same thing as has been done in media nowadays means death.”
Axios launches with 10 advertising partners, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Boeing Co., BP PLC and PepsiCo.
Both cable news giants CNN and Fox News got something to boast about with their New Years Eve coverage.
As the seconds ticked toward 2017, over 3 million viewers watched CNN’s “New Year’s Eve Live with Anderson Cooper & Kathy Griffin,” edging out Fox News’ “All-American New Year” hosted by Eric Bolling, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Jesse Watters and Kennedy.
Their 3.04 million viewers between 11 PM EST and 12:30 AM EST made it the most-watched cable news show for the evening. Fox News received 2.75 million viewers during the same time span.
Expanding coverage analytics throughout the evening, Fox News triumphed. Looking at numbers from 8 PM EST through 12:30 AM EST, Fox News averaged about 100,000 more viewers than CNN.
However, even in this expanded measure, CNN won the 25-54 year old bracket.
MSNBC did not have a New Year’s Eve broadcast, instead carrying live coverage from the NBC Network.
In a recent interview with Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” several former White House press secretaries issued warnings and concerns about the incoming Trump White House and its relationship with the media.
“We’ve just elected a man who bullies female reporters at his rally as an applause line,” said Nicole Wallace, communications director under former President George W. Bush. “We have just elected a man who started a hot war with a female anchor instead of attending a debate she moderated. We are in a new place. And I don’t think it’s good. And I don’t think it has any parallels to the past.”
Bill Clinton’s press secretary, Joe Lockhart, warned over Trump’s tendency to ignore or simply make up facts. “It’s somewhat Orwellian, which, you know, you redefine the past, which means you can define the present and the future,” Lockhart said. “And that’s going to be very difficult for both sides to come to grips with.”
Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary under Bush, addressed the mutual animosity between the press and Trump. Especially with public confidence in the press at historic lows, “the press has made itself vulnerable, because it lost the trust of their readers and their viewers — and Trump has widely taken advantage of it,” Fleischer concluded.
Former State Department Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and former Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel has been named Walter Shorenstein Media and Democracy Fellow by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.
His fellowship studies will concentrate on the connection between government and media. While in residence at the Shorenstein Center, Stengel will meet with students and faculty, conduct study groups, and speak for the Harvard community at events. His term as fellow will last from February 1, 2017 through May 2017.
“Mr. Stengel’s combination of experience—from leading one of the nation’s premier news publications to guiding America’s public diplomacy in the Obama administration, not to mention his experience around the world, especially in covering South Africa—make him an unusual and exceptional fit for the Kennedy School,” said Center Director Nicco Mele. “We look forward to welcoming him to our community.”
Stengel is the longest-serving U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in history. He was Managing Editor of Time from 2006 through 2013, including 2012 when Time won Magazine of the Year.
The Shorenstein Center is based at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Its mission is to study and analyze the effects of media and technology, public policy and politics.