Here’s what President Trump can do: He can schedule a news briefing and not let certain reporters attend, thereby designating them, in the eyes of his faithful, as enemies of truth and freedom.
That’s what Trump did Friday. The New York Times, CNN, and Politico were turned away at the office door of press secretary Sean Spicer. In solidarity, reporters from Time and the AP did what they could do—boycotted the briefing.
Trump has been badmouthing journalists for so long it was only a matter of time before he upped the ante. Earlier in the day he’d called CNN the “Clinton News Network” in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference and called “dishonest” journalists the “enemy of the people.”
“They are very smart,” Trump said. “They are very cunning, they are very dishonest.”
And not without resources of their own.
We’ve already seen what I feel safe calling a preemptive response from the Washington Post. Its new online motto, rolled out a couple days ago, is “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” But what is this “darkness” the Post speaks of? Is it the shadow cast by an ignorant, autocratic White House upon our great nation? Or is it the shadow cast by a journalistic profession that’s laid off so many reporters it no longer has any way of knowing what anyone anywhere is thinking outside certain neighborhoods of New York, Washington, and LA?
Or it it both? No matter. The important thing is that the Post knows there’s work to be done and intends to do it. Back in December the paper said it intended to hire more than 60 additional journalists. Other newspapers might want to revisit their own storied mottoes as a way of letting the president know they intend to be equally relentless (even if they can’t go on a hiring spree). The New York Times, for instance, could guarantee readers “All the news that gives you fits,” there already being scarcely a news story or op-ed that doesn’t have me shaking my fist. And the Atlanta Journal could revive past glory by making good on a new vow: “We cover dicks like the dew.”