Media open a skeptical eye after 8-year sleep
By Washington Examiner --
Major media organizations have suddenly discovered a passion to act as a check on the powerful.
"One thing is certain in the presumptive era of President Trump. Journalists are going to have to be better — stronger, more courageous, stiffer-spined — than they've ever been," wrote the Washington Post's Margaret Sullivan.
A few weeks later, the New York Times announced the formation of a new investigative unit to cover the federal government. Many in the press cheered the development as a good first step in establishing some sort of media "oversight" for the incoming Trump administration.
Calls to action are noble. Holding the powerful to account is the reason the press is in the First Amendment, and the power that needs the most scrutiny and skepticism is our federal government. So, cheers!
But where has this fire been for the last eight years? The corollary of the creation of the Times' new investigative unit is that it didn't exist during the presidency of Barack Obama. It's not as if President Obama and his administration have been the most transparent in history, to coin a phrase, somehow obviating the need for press scrutiny.
In fact, it has been the opposite, according to the Society of Professional Journalists, which sent a letter to White House press secretary Josh Earnest in September listing specific ways in which transparency has gotten worse under Obama.
Officials have blocked reporters' requests "to talk to specific staff people," the group said, imposed "excessive delays in answering interview requests that stretch past reporters' deadlines," and "officials convey information 'on background,' refusing to give reporters what should be public information unless they agree not to say who is speaking," Additional grievances include, "federal agencies blackballing reporters who write critically of them" and a "continued lack of meaningful visual access to the president by an independent press pool."
The letter doesn't even get to the details of the 2013 scandal in which the Justice Department was found to have secretly obtained at least two months worth of office and personal telephone records belonging to Associated Press journalists.
The letter doesn't discuss the DOJ using the Espionage Act of 1917 to name Fox News' James Rosen as a "criminal co-conspirator" in an investigation involving leaked classified information.
It doesn't even get into the fact that the Obama White House set a record in 2014 for denying the most Freedom of Information Act requests of any administration.
But it is only now, now that Republicans are to retake the White House, that newsrooms are recommitting themselves to their mission of holding the powerful to account?