Donald Trump has been the president of the United States for around 40 days and has certainly done some unorthodox things in that time. He has misled the public on the size of his inaugural crowd. He has undertaken some ill-advised military operations and he has had to ask his National Security advisor to resign. Even amongst all of those unprecedented things, Trump continues to find new ways to make news. This past weekend, President Trump announced he will not attend the White House Correspondent’s dinner, marking the first time in 36 years that a president has opted not to attend.
In the grand scheme of things, Trump skipping the White House Correspondent’s dinner won’t have any real ramifications. However his skipping shows his true views on the media and how he plans to interact with the press over the next four years.
Even prior to the White House Correspondent’s dinner announcement, people knew Trump did not get along with the press. Last week, Press Secretary Sean Spicer held an off-camera gaggle for reporters in lieu of the normal question and answer series. While not unorthodox, this event blocked coverage from the New York Times, Politico, CNN and Al Jazeera, to name a few (). About a week and a half ago, Trump called the press the enemy of the American people, specifically signaling out the New York Times, NBC New, CBS, CNN and ABC. All of these news organizations have been critical of the Trump administration in the past.
It is one thing to not like the press and it is somewhat to be expected that the president of the United States will not like those covering him. After all, one of the jobs of the press in this country is to check the decisions of those in power and inform the American people of what is happening. Yet the press can also help strengthen a president’s message by offering context to why a decision was made and show the American people the benefits of a certain decision.
Trump does not understand this connection nor how to reap its benefits. For Trump, the media is only a scapegoat to blame all of America’s problems, no matter what they may be. Unemployment too high? The media must have reported on the wrong numbers. Administration might have connections to the Russian government? The media clearly fabricated a report. Anything that goes against what Trump believes or is trying to use as his message is automatically wrong and fake news.
Trump doesn’t realize media does not report for or to him. The press is not his personal story editing squad. Their sole job is to provide unbiased reporting in order to help inform the American people over what actually is going on inside places where power resides, be it the government or big businesses.
Inside the Newseum in Washington D.C. there is a glass wall covered in over 2,000 names. These names etched into the glass are representative of the reporters, photographers and broadcasters from around the world who have given up their lives in order to make sure stories get told and the world knows the truth about what is happening no matter the cost. President Trump’s actions have shown he does not care for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. He does not respect those who would do whatever it takes to report on a story even if they do not get to see the final results. His actions are an insult to journalists in America and around the world.
In 1823, Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The only security of all is in free press.” Without a free press, we are no better than countries with a dictator. It’s time Trump learns to respect and understand the press or suffer at its hands.