Trump Has Lifted his Media Blacklist – What Does This Mean for Political Journalism?

The Trump campaign has announced that effective Thursday, September 8th, their infamous media “blacklist” will be lifted and media outlets like Politico, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and others will have equal access to the campaign once more.

These outlets, in recent months, have had run-ins with the Trump camp – from a Washington Post reporter being “patted down” when entering a rally via general admission to journalists simply being booted from various campaign events while on the trail.

“I actually went to a Trump rally through general admission. It was a good opportunity to speak with the attendees and I learned a lot,” said Michael Calderone, senior media reporter for the Huffington Post, in an interview with MediaFile. “But not having WiFi, a place to work and file stories, as well as waiting in line for long periods of time could make things very difficult, especially if you’re a journalist on deadline.”

 

The lifting of the blacklist doesn’t come as a surprise to those in the campaign media sphere. Within the past several weeks, and since the installment of new campaign leadership like Kellyanne Conway, the Trump camp has seemingly softened their stance.

“I have a feeling that influence of the new team has caused a shift in the Labor Day stretch,” said Politico media reporter Hadas Gold in an interview with MediaFile. “Several moves, like a basic print press pool being established last week to include blacklisted outlets, have indicated that the blacklist wasn’t staying. But for a while now, [the campaign] would respond to my e-mails and the Washington Post got interviews. […] The blacklist and restriction of access still mattered, but it wasn’t a full blackout.”

Despite the change, there are doubts that Trump’s attitude towards these particular outlets will improve.

“I don’t get the sense that he’s going to be more accessible to those that were on the blacklist,” said Calderone. “He’s dramatically curtailed his media presence since the primary. I don’t think that the Trump press presence that you saw in the primary will come back just because the ban has been lifted.”

 

Campaign reporters require “lots of investment” from news organizations in order to follow the trail, and access is everything in order  to do their job right. Not getting credentialed and guaranteed access, like those that were on the blacklist experienced, not only made the lives of campaign reporters more difficult, but it may also set a dangerous precedent for the future.

“The Trump blacklist is unprecedented. Never before have we seen the barring of dozens of outlets from just watching a rally,” said Calderone. “It’s one thing to say that [the campaign doesn’t] want to give excessive access, it’s another to give less access to members of the press than members of the general public get. I understand that campaigns get frustrated with the media, but it’s a dangerous precedent for a possible Trump administration.”

“One of [the candidates is] going to be president – what does the blacklisting mean for presidential coverage?” said Gold. “The norm has been that the people who write crazy things about the administration still retain their White House hard pass, but this election has challenged that norm. What does that mean when they’re actually in power?”

Hillary Clinton has had her fair share of tension with the press in this election cycle. While she has allowed press onto her plane for the first time this week, she still has not given a full press conference in ages. Despite the nearly 300 days since Clinton’s last press conference, Trump’s banning of outlets is seen as more of a danger for the media.


In an email sent from the Trump campaign on August 30, Trump targets "Hiding Hillary" and her lack of press conferences, saying she hadn't had one in 269 days.

“I think that Trump has been acting more dangerous. While Clinton not doing press conferences is bad, Trump has specifically called out reporters,” said Gold. “This is an unusual thing for a candidate to do. He wants to change libel laws, his wife is suing a news organization for defamation – you don’t see a normal politicians do this. This is much more extreme.”

And, as for the future of political reporting after this election? That is hard to tell.

“Judging from their actions towards the press as of late, Trump may remove outlets who aren’t sympathetic from the briefing room, and Clinton may very well be standoffish from the press if she’s elected,” said Calderone. “There are going to be concerns for journalists no matter who becomes president. Whether it’s a Democrat or Republican, the press has faced – and will continue to face – challenges on a regular basis.”

“I think political media and reporting has been changing for a while. Someone could write their entire PhD thesis on it!” said Gold. “We’ve especially seen polarizing in a lot of the media […] and we’ve seen the challenging of the idea that the media needs to be objective no matter what. How can you come across as objective when you have to call out when someone is lying and tell the truth?”

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