Private Briefing, Access Limited

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Lauren Salzman Co-Editor-in-Chief Melissa McCarthy’s memorable mocking of Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live has been watched and re-watched 24,912,062 times on YouTube alone over the past weeks. The sketch depicts Spicer (McCarthy) holding a press conference, while mocking his gum-chewing habits, tendency to yell, and supposed lack of knowledge and avoidance of questions. But political satire usually stems from truth, and recently, Spicer has cause for adding to the ongoing satire. Sean Spicer’s press conference on Feb. 24 was nothing funny, as several news agencies were banned from entering the briefing. To make matters more interesting, Spicer held the briefing in his West Wing office, where there was more privacy. The conference was not televised as it usually is, giving certain agencies a monopoly over the most recent presidential updates. White House representatives said that the generic “pool system” was used during Spicer’s last briefing. “The pool,” a system devised to incorporate a small group of reporters to cover the president and then share their findings, consisted of correspondents from Breitbart News, the One America News Network, the Washington Times, CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox. However, the pool was not diluted with more liberal news outlets such as the Guardian, the New York Times, the Sun Times, Politico, CNN, and Buzzfeed, who were all denied access to the press conference. While CBS, NBC, and ABC are still categorized as more left leaning, being network news stations, they attempt to report the news while trying to remain towards the center. Cable news, however, is generally more prejudice in nature, Fox news stations are more conservative, and CNN is more liberal. It is no surprise that CNN was not granted access to the press conference, while Fox walked in with no trouble. At Latin, while the issues tend to be of smaller magnitude, the administration is fairly transparent— as transparent as it can be. When a controversial school event occurs, Ms. Rodriguez, or in past years the other heads of schools, has approached the student body during an assembly, and in their own way, held a press conference. They tell the students, who, like media outlets, have different opinions and biases, the facts behind events that have taken place. Latin’s administrative staff does a superb job of being open to students when possible, while still maintaining the privacy of those involved. Although the teachers may get a more in-depth, “private briefing,” the students all receive the same relaying of events, usually within the same context. Additionally, all students hear the truth at the same time. The Conservatives of Latin club does not hear it before BSU, who does not hear it before LAW. We, unlike the general public and news agencies, have the benefit of hearing our news from a reliable source, at the same time. The Guardian however, did not have that same luxury. “The [daily] briefing[s] [have] become indispensable viewing for journalists trying to interpret the often contradictory statements coming out of the Trump administration, and Spicer’s aggressive handling of the press and delivery of false or misleading statements,” writes the Guardian. If news outlets are being hand selected to relay the President’s messages, then how far from media censorship are we? The banned news stations and newspapers will eventually grab hold of these stories, but they will be a day too late, and the story will be a day too old, leaving just a few selected writers and networks to inform the world.   Trump’s war with the media parallels his obsession with it. His refusal to attend the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, a fundraiser for college scholarships, can be viewed as push-back against the news agencies that have injected themselves into his campaign and presidency, with negative or false reporting, according to Trump. The dinner is a light-hearted event where the president finally has the opportunity to “jab back” at news outlets. But not this year, for President Trump has found his own way of doing that via Twitter. He recently tweeted, “I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening.” However, hours later, he used the social media platform once again to push back against the New York Times, instead of utilizing friendly fire at the dinner. He wrote, “For the first time the failing @nytimes will take and ad (a bad one) to help save its failing reputation. Try reporting accurately & fairly!” Although it may be publicized as so, Trump is not the only president to ban media outlets. President Richard Nixon banned the Washington Post after they broke the Watergate scandal in 1972. An audio recording had Nixon stating that he would go so far as to fire his press secretary, Ron Ziegler, if a Post reporter were to enter into a briefing. In 2008, Obama “booted three reporters from conservative newspapers off his campaign plane,” according to ABC, claiming there were a limited number of seats. However, Obama’s campaign responded by saying that news outlets such as Fox News and The Wall Street Journal were allowed to stay, despite their criticism of Obama. Although Obama prohibited access to certain publications, he was campaigning and not yet the President of the Unites States. Maybe Trump’s banning of the press is more prevalent due to his abrasive presence on social media and his willingness to speak out, or maybe it’s because people want to have something to pin against him, or we have forgotten that other presidents have done the same thing. But regardless of the reason, censorship, in any form, can negatively reflect on any politician, and create the air of having something to hide. “Friday’s media ban was the first during Trump’s official presidency,” wrote ABC, “[and] given his current beef with the media, it likely won’t be the last.” ]]>