Is a Trump Presidency Bad News for Journalists?

The election of Donald Trump has left many Americans terrified – even journalists. During the campaign, he showed consistent antagonism towards the press, and many are worried that he will continue sentiment towards the press as President.

This antagonism is well-documented. In February, the then-GOP candidate said that he would “open up our libel laws” and “have people sue you [journalists] like you never got sued before.”

He repeatedly disparaged mainstream news outlets during his time as the Republican nominee and in the final run-up to the general election. He revoked the press credentials of The Washington Post and several other outlets he found to be “inaccurate” and “dishonest,” and confined reporters to a “press pen” where they were often harassed.

Just six days before election day, Trump called out specific reporters – namely NBC’s Katy Tur – by name during a campaign rally. In response, the hashtag #ImWithTur was circulating around the media Twitterverse.

All of this has led to consternation among the journalistic community, many of whom are asking themselves what, exactly, a Trump presidency will entail for them. White House reporters especially are concerned that a Trump administration will not follow the well-established tradition of having a White House protective press pool to report on the President at all times.

18 different Washington journalism organizations, including the National Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists, penned an open letter to the President-Elect, requesting that he follow the tradition of press access during his tenure as President.

This isn’t about access for the press itself, it’s about access for Americans in diverse communities across the country,” the letter states. “We respectfully ask you to instill a spirit of openness and transparency in your administration in many ways but first and foremost via the press pool.”

Despite assuring that the President-elect will maintain a “traditional pool,” Trump has already broken with tradition and “escaped” the pool to go out to dinner last Tuesday.

Another worrisome possibility? The weaponization of Breitbart to become an American iteration of the Russian state-run Pravda. These concerns stem from the appointment of Steve Bannon, who led Breitbart before becoming Trump’s campaign CEO, to the position of White House chief strategist. Alexander Marlow, Breitbart’s editor-in-chief, denied this possibility. He told The New York Times that “our loyalty is not going to be to Donald Trump; our loyalty is to our readers and to our values,” and also that Breitbart will be “highly critical” of the administration if Trump turns away from the policies he promised in his campaign.

Increased harassment is yet another concern for journalists, particularly minorities and women. Late in the evening hours of election night, Wall Street Journal graphics editor Stephanie Stamm tweeted “Upon leaving office (we share with Fox) I was already assaulted with two “I’ll grab you by the pussy” quotes.”

The next morning, Slate reporter Mark Joseph Stern wrote an article titled “I Am a Gay Jew in Trump’s America and I Am Afraid for My Life” in which he reported receiving repeated death threats and harassment with words like “Kike. Faggot. Fucking Jew.”

Perhaps the most disturbing possibility for the journalistic community is that Trump will follow up on his February promise to “open up [America’s] libel laws,” which means that suing a media organization for anything deemed in court to be false or “written defamation” would be an accessible option for the President-elect.

There is some disagreement as to whether or not he could, in fact, do such a thing as President. Those who argue that it is a possibility also admit that it would be arduous and highly unlikely. For now, the President-elect has fortunately limited his press criticism to various tweets condemning the New York Times.

Will journalists face a grim future under President Trump? It certainly seems possible, but only time will tell.

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