The Military Parade: Should the Media Care About It?

Last week, plans for a military parade to occur on Washington DC’s  Pennsylvania Avenue in the coming months were revealed. President Donald Trump was evidently the brainchild for the idea, which received polarized reactions independent of party affiliation.

Opponents of the parade include Robert O’Neill, the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. Despite being a Trump supporter, O’Neill didn’t see the necessity of the parade.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who served in the armed forces and is a double amputee, also expressed her distaste with the idea of a military parade. Already part of the recent news cycle because of her refusal to clap for Trump at his State of the Union address, Duckworth called the notion of a military parade “simply ridiculous” and felt it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Despite the responses, the media had an inherent obligation to learn more about the event. Many reporters were torn on how to approach covering the parade proposal, though, perhaps fearing that it could become a distraction at a time when the biggest story was White House aide Rob Porter’s resignation over two of his ex-wives’ domestic violence accusations.

Some outlets, such as Fox News, felt its audience should know about the parade, with Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts advocating for an open-minded approach to the idea:

Still, the question remains: do news outlets have a responsibility to report on a parade that may or may not happen? Can they express their views about said parade without coming across as biased? And can the media report on the Porter story over the parade without seeming partial to the story that makes Trump’s administration look bad?

None of these questions are easily answerable. The parade seldom came up in the press briefing immediately following the news, with the word “parade” appearing just five times throughout the briefing between the podium and press.

But the press perspective on Trump’s parade plans has been largely negative.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff opined in The New York Times that such a parade would not be cost-effective and would prove difficult to plan.

“Given the initial lackluster response to the president’s proposal, the plans for a military parade may well be shot down,” he wrote.

Jeffrey Lewis wrote in The Washington Post — the outlet that broke the story about the potential parade — about his fear that a parade would cast the wrong message despite any good intentions.

“A massive demonstration of military might, especially if it includes some aspect of the nation’s nuclear deterrent, is only going to convince Kim Jong Un and others that the United States sees its power flagging and is frightened,” he said. “It’s like telling a bully our biggest fear, except we’re putting it on a float and rolling it through downtown Washington.”

What should be considered in this coverage is newsworthiness. If the media decides that an aide without security clearance who has a history of domestic violence is more important to report than a suggestion for a military parade that is still barely in the works, then that’s its prerogative.

Whether that’s the right call, is a question that will garner different reactions from the executive branch and the correspondents covering it.

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