Send the interns

Put your most junior people in the White House briefing room.

22 Jan 2017 7:26 pm 135 Comments

#sendtheinterns is a hashtag that stands for some advice I have given the Washington press corps about its dealings with the Trump White House.

After this weekend’s spectacular display by new Press Secretary Sean Spicer — mixing provable falsehoods with culture war attacks on the journalists assembled before him — the case for sending interns to the White House briefing room is stronger than ever. In this post I want to restate that argument in light of what just happened, and clarify what I am not saying.

A good place to begin in the analysis of Spicer’s performance is that we have no name for what this thing was. We can’t call it a press conference because, in a remarkable show of cowardice, Spicer walked out without taking questions. It wasn’t an announcement because there was no policy news external to press relations.

Spicer called it an “update on the president’s activities” but attacking journalists for being biased against you is in no sense an “update.” It wasn’t an informal discussion among people who have to work together because, as I said, there was no back and forth, and the setting was stiff, formal, heavy with significance as this was the first official briefing room event of a new presidency. Spicer looked tense. He was shouting at times as he read from a prepared script. Watch the clip: what would you call it? (It’s 5:32)

Trying not for elegance but for accuracy, I would call this event a “relationship message delivery vehicle,” operating on three levels.

First, it told staffers who work for Trump: this is what we expect. If The Leader is reeling from a narcissistic wound (crowd figures too small) you will be expected to sacrifice dignity and best practice to redress that wound. That’s what you bought into when you agreed to work for President Trump. This is a stark statement. No wonder Spicer sounded tense.

A second message was to the press: You will be turned into hate objects whenever we feel like it. We can do that to you without providing right of reply because… what are you going to do about it? Small mistakes quickly corrected will be treated as evidence of malicious wrong doing by the entire group. (And you deserve that.) We are not bound by what you call facts. We have our own, and we will proceed to put them out regardless of what the evidence says. It’s not a problem for us if you stagger from the room in disbelief. We’re not trying to “win the news cycle,” or win you over. We’re trying to demonstrate independence from and power over you people. This room is not just for briefings, announcements and Q & A. It’s also a theater of resentment in which you play a crucial part. Our constituency hates your guts; this is the place where we commune with them around that fact. See you tomorrow, guys!

Reaction from the press corps:

A third “relationship” message went to the listeners, in tripartite.

* To the core Trump constituency — and an audience primed for this over years of acrid ‘liberal media’ critique — two things were said. “We’re going to rough these people up.” (Because we know how long you have waited for that.) But also, and in return, you have to accept our “alternative facts” even if your own eyes tell you otherwise. This too is a stark message. The epistemological “price” for being a solider in Trump’s army is high. You have to swallow, repeat and defend things that simply don’t check out. Screen shot from the Washington Post’s fact check: * To the listeners who are hostile to Trump the message is: you don’t count. There is no common world of fact that connects us to you. Rage on, losers. We don’t have to acknowledge any part of your reality. We’re fine if you dispute ours. In fact, the hotter the better. Our aim is true: to maximize conflict between your core group and ours. So please: help us polarize!

* To the neither/nors, the people who are not part of the Trump constituency and not yet committed to opposing him either, the message is very different. I can summarize it in two words: Don’t bother. People are fighting over what is real— and what is a lie. They dwell in different worlds— different, but neither of them yours. Any modest effort to pay attention will collapse into futility. Truth is impossible to discern without a heroic — and expensive — act of crap detection. Mostly there is confusion. The only rational choice is to pass on the whole spectacle. This space isn’t for you. This is for “them,” the people obsessed with politics. You should just live your life.

Look, then, at what Sean Spicer’s “relationship message delivery vehicle” accomplished on Day One. For Trump staffers: You gave up your dignity when you joined up with The Leader. Act accordingly. For journalists: You are hate objects. We are unbound from all evidence, all truth. For Trump supporters: We will put these press people down for you, but in return you have to lie to yourselves for us. For Trump’s opponents: go nuts, we love it! For the neither/nors: Don’t bother paying attention. You won’t be able to figure it out.

Listen to Ezra Klein explain why this is more than a sideshow:

The Trump administration is creating a baseline expectation among its loyalists that they can’t trust anything said by the media. The spat over crowd size is a low-stakes, semi-comic dispute, but the groundwork is being laid for much more consequential debates over what is, and isn’t, true. Delegitimizing the institutions that might report inconvenient or damaging facts about the president is strategic for an administration that has made a slew of impossible promises and takes office amid a cloud of ethics concerns and potential scandals.

And that is the business that was transacted in the White House briefing room… on Day One.

“Send the interns” means our major news organizations don’t have to cooperate with this. They don’t have to lend talent or prestige to it. They don’t have to be props. They need not televise the spectacle live (CNN didn’t carry Spicer’s rant) and they don’t have to send their top people.

They can “switch” systems: from inside-out, where access to the White House starts the story engines, to outside-in, where the action begins on the rim, in the agencies, around the committees, with the people who are supposed to obey Trump but have doubts. As I wrote on December 30:

During the Trump campaign who had better access: The reporters in the media pen, or those who got tickets and moved with the rest of the crowd? Were the news organizations on the blacklist really at a disadvantage? I can hear the reply. We need both: inside and outside. Fine, do both. My point is: outside-in can become the baseline method, and inside-out the occasionally useful variant. Switch it up. Send interns to the daily briefing when it becomes a newsless mess. Move the experienced people to the rim.

Sean Spicer has no power over the press but what they give to him. From a New York Times reporter whose beat is Congress:

When I say #sendtheinterns I mean it literally: take a bold decision to put your most junior people in the briefing room. Recognize that the real story is elsewhere, and most likely hidden. That’s why the experienced reporters need to be taken out of the White House, and put on other assignments.

Look: they can’t visit culture war upon you if they don’t know where you are. The press has to become less predictable. It has to stop functioning as a hate object. This means giving something up. The dream of the White House briefing room and the Presidential press conference is that accountability can be transacted in dramatic and televisable moments: the perfect question that puts the President or his designate on the spot, and lets the public see — as if in a flash — who they are led by. This was always an illusion. Crumbling for decades, it has become comically unsustainable under Trump.

Please note: I am not saying that as a beat the White House is unimportant, or that its pronouncements can be ignored. I’m not saying: devote less attention to Trump. Rather: change the terms of this relationship. Make yourself more elusive. In the theater of resentment where you play such a crucial part, relinquish that part.

The hard thing is not sending the interns, or tasking the experienced people with an outside-in beat into which they can dig. The hard thing is giving up on the dream of some exquisite confrontation that reveals all: accountability in a box.


After Spider’s performance yesterday and Conway’s working over of Chuck Todd today the need for a new strategy is sorely needed.

John Russo says:

New strategy? Rise above the need to constantly editorialize. Stop making everything into a horse race (the lowest common denominator). Stop feigning puzzlement, insult, and annoyance. Stop promoting prejudice. Avoid name calling.

Acknowledge there’s lots of stuff you don’t know. You’re not the smartest “ne” in the room.

New strategy? Learn more about your audience. Most of us have passed you by.

William Hayes says:

I agree. As a member of anyone’s audience, I only want to hear the facts…. just the facts. The cost to filter out opinions is measured in time as a percentage of my remaining life span. The older I get, the more costly it is and generally not worth the effort.

C. Poulin says:

Obviously you haven’t.

joel hanes says:

Why send anyone at all?

Fair question.

On the chance that something is announced that matters, and so the Trump forces cannot say, “They refuse to cover us!”

Bill Michtom says:

Let them say that, AND refuse to cover them. Then tell the truth about why: constant lying and personal abuse do not deserve coverage.

No coverage unless the Trumpsters apologize or simply change their behavior. ALSO, don’t talk to any of them ANYWHERE: no Kellyanne, no Sean, no Donald, no Newt or Rudy or Congresscritters speaking for the administration.

They need the press more than the press needs them. Add the interns to the necessary beats, because verifying the myriad lies will take extra staff.

Michael Brazier says:

But Trump doesn’t need the press. He has Twitter and YouTube and the White House website, when he wants to talk to the voters. The real purpose of the White House press corps has always been to let the President talk to the voters through the medium of the press; now that the President has other ways to talk to the voters, he doesn’t need it anymore.

I disagree. Trump’s supporters hate the press but the other 2/3 of the nation don’t. If for no other reason than his vanity demands it, it would, I suspect, drive them up the wall if news orgs send any but their top ppl. In additon, sending the interns would free up news orgs’ most seasoned reporters to tap other sources, dig into the behind-the-scenes stories and get back into real investigative reporting. It looks like that will be the only way to find the real truth of what this administration’s trying to do. This is,’obviously, an unconventional administration; only unconventional means can be used to find the real storie.

I also think that’s simplistic. It’s one thing to blow past all norms when you’re in campaign mode, but I think even he is discovering–certainly his staff know–that things shift when you are actually sworn in as president. The flood of leaks the last couple of days from insiders about how hurt and frustrated he feels that he’s not being taken seriously–at the same time he’s abusing the trad media, he desperately needs them to treat him as President. The alt-media can’t provide that validation, both emotionally and functionally, precisely because they AREN’T the mainstream. He wants–needs!–to have his cake and eat it too, in other words. And it’s important to make him understand he can’t. That can’t have the validation he needs if he’s going to be publicly shitting on them at the same time. So I think Rosen is exactly right. A karate master I heard say it best: “Best defense? Not be there.”

Michael Brazier says:

Leaks from “insiders”. Uh huh.

Trump is unquestionably a vain man, but I doubt that respect from journalists is much of a sop to his vanity. And if he ever cared about the norms of political discussion his life would be very different from what it has been.

PF Cohen says:

I totally agree. As a left-leaning voter, it really disturbs me how much air time news outlets, that present as either left-leaning or middle of the road, have given to Trump and his legion of spokespeople – all of whom defy convention.
I’m really getting tired of it and have come to realize that outlets like MSNBC have little to no regard for their audience. They know their audience is repulsed and terrified so they pander to that addictive fear by regularly giving voice to the likes of Kellyanne Conway to keep everyone stoked.
There is never anything to gain from listening to any of Trumps people as they provide nothing of substance and never have. All that continuing to provide visibility for these people will do, is to normalize their crazy and as a former MSNBC loyal viewer, I resent them for that.

Hughey Spinks says:

2017 01-29
Jay Rosen,
I heard parts of your interview broadcast: On The Media/NPR this date. Nice.
Hughey Spinks 479 234 8892 vox/txt mobile [email protected]

From John Adams (The Portable John Adams): “Facts are stubborn things, whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our own passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
To the general public, fact is taken to be equal to truth, however preposterous the fact itself may be. In law, fact is what is said to be true, but only accepted as true by the preponderance of evidence in support of the proposition. Evidence plays the critical role in Law and Journalism for determining fact from fiction.
First things first, first impressions, first in sequence, first in importance are all remembered first. Sometimes the headline is all that is clearly remembered. Note that in the suggested format below, I am emphasizing Current Title. Current is absolutely true, and indicates a temporary position that is also true.
Start with evidence of truth and source, then transit to counterclaims and the evidence in contention last. The evidence(s) of fact is superior to unsupported counterclaims.
Headline Current President’s Baptism in Rain
Bark Service USA estimates 1,000 more people attended the baptism of OB One, than attended the baptism of Don John who is now the Current President, according to a report issued at 5pm yesterday by spokesperson .G. I. Joe. (full report text Here: BSUSA.slobb/baptism/donjohn) (Bark Service photos of both events Here
The second paragraph would include usual and customary event description, commentary, and interviews. More could follow and flesh out the article. ( if needed, source redirection Here)
The now Current President Don John posted a bird call at 2 am today calling the report false, and at 2:15 said the media was biased, and at 2:22 that photos prove him right. (Bark Service photos of both events Here) (Bird call redirects Here)
At 8 am, the Current Impression Sectarian May Dupe provided her own alternative comments and translations. Summarize, then (redirect Here).

You referenced diversion, and I would like to emphasize its use, and countermeasure. Diversion is a slight of hand, a deception in magic, a deflection in politics, and scams.
Ask yourself first,
why are you being diverted,
what you are being diverted from,
and how are you being diverted?
Who is conning you?
Con artists like to taunt their audience, and to flaunt their own skills.
Right out of the shoot the Current President held a Saturday morning “Event” at the CIA headquarters. Why? Why photos of all volunteer attendees? Loyalist identification en mass?
Don John insisted all along that the voting process was “rigged”, and in video spots he appears almost gleeful.
Current President Don John is now directing attention to the popular vote, and still sounds gleeful. He has already been elected.
Why point to the popular vote?.The popular vote did not elect him, the Electoral vote did. (maybe, or maybe not)
Distract away from one thing, to the other? What is it about the Electoral College vote he wants to avoid? Was it the process Rigged?
Look at amendment XXIV. Ask yourself “Did I personally and specifically vote for an Elector, or not?” Do politically unaffiliated citizens vote count?
What are the weaknesses in that amendment? It is oddly structured. I can give you hints of possibilities. Are you willing to put in the labor and time investment?


Just put an audio recorder on a chair and come back later.

SavageNarce says:

Didn’t Nixon try that?

just use the cspan model. set the camera, leave it there.

M. L. Johnson says:

With the internet and the surplus of news outlets, I’m not sure you’ll be missed. The MSM has brought this on itself, surely you recognize that. While many of us that backed Trump gingerly want the administration to quit this silly quibbling, most of us (I’m speculating) are willing to give Spicer some time to get it together. The MSM has been giving the news a Left-leaning slant for so long that they don’t concede that it’s opinion anymore, so giving this administration some limited (time) leeway is a no-brainer.

Not trying to be combative, but can you give me an example of the type of left leaning slant you mean? I consider myself a liberal, but I’d hope that I’m fairly level headed. I hear this critique leveled at the media all the time, but I’m not sure what it means.

Timothy in Columbus says:

EJC, there are many ways to answer your question, although a comments section isn’t necessarily the best forum! Books have been written on the subject, numerous articles have been written or podcasts produced (ex:, anecdotal evidence is abundant (
Study after study comes out that journalists are overwhelmingly registered Democrats/liberals. More anecdotal evidence exists in looking at how debates have been moderated in recent cycles, how questions were presented (set up) & which questions were actually asked.

And I haven’t even mentioned yet the idea that the biggest impact liberal media bias has on news coverage is the decisions that are made on 1) what to cover (or not cover) and 2) where news items are placed in newspapers or online.

Timothy in Columbus says:

Bernard Goldberg wrote a famous book on the issue entitled “Bias” & Sharyl Attkisson’s book, “Stonewalled” is also an eye-opener (just to name a few).

Michael Brazier says:

Dan Rather and the forged Texas Air National Guard memos. No one at 60 Minutes thought to ask why interoffice memos supposedly written in 1971 had been typeset … because the text of the memos imputed cowardice to George W. Bush. If they made a GOP politician look bad, they had to be authentic, so why bother checking?

A clearer example of political bias in action couldn’t be found. Particularly after the forgery was proven and Rather’s defenders began claiming the memos were “fake but accurate”. Remember that? It was only twelve years ago …

One CBS story — which they publicly investigated and which resulted in fairly widespread firings — is evidence for widespread liberal media bias. Wow.

FOX is widely regarded as the conservative TV channel of the right. Please show me where FOX has ever retracted a story. Ever. We have high profile “apologies” from Bret Baier and Sean Hannity as recently as November — of course nether of them have been fired. Roger Ailes, Jack Abernethy and Bill O’Reilly – sexual predators but one one fired. FOX paid to have the latest complaint against O’Reilly and Abernethy “go away” (LAT).

Maybe it’s a “left” slant of the media, or maybe it’s the ridiculous candidate/President and the “alternative facts.”

To wit, unprecedented numbers of “right” newspapers endorsed Hillary over Donald, not because the suddenly went left, but because they believed the Don to be reckless and unstable. For many, it was the first time in history endorsing a Democrat. Donald sees this as “media bias,” but most of the rest of us see it for what it was. Sensible.

It is definitively worth consideration that this outburst was not some spur of the moment freak out but of a piece with a strategic plan. I remain agnostic how strategic it was. I’ve seen the strategic argument used to explain most every sort of Trump rant on a range of policy issues and it always seems to be a stretch. Which come to think about it could prove to be a terrible mistake.

As to if the “press” or more specifically the big corporate owned press, wants to fight the Trump? Well paint me agnostic again.

“Strategic” implies consciously thought out plan. People don’t wish to recognize that Trump is simply off the wall: delusional. This assumption of “rationality” among irrational people–is the biggest flaw in Western thought.

Yes. I think Trump’s Razor is still operative.

Veni Fields says:

Exactly. Because these are “real” positions of authority, it presupposes the people taking them — the biggest, of course, being POTUS — are, or will be, at any point, taking them seriously. The struggle I’ve seen is in legitimate news-gatherers and anchors who have no idea how to deal with the fact that this person is not and has never been in touch with the same reality as are the rest of us who view it with clarity and sanity. It’s like trying to catch an eel with oil on your hands.

How to deal with an unstable leader who was legitimately (well…?) voted into THIS office and how to treat the instability coming out of it is the biggest issue to confront journalism — well, probably ever. The mistrust sewn into the equation from the get-go is making that task even more difficult. It’s not as if we can just throw up our hands collectively and say the guy is crazy, so look, folks, we can’t cover this. In some ways I love the task of figuring it out throughout the important cornerstones of the industry, because complacency is always dangerous. Now, however, it’s dangerous in a whole new way, because those of us who practice this craft are in many different crosshairs from people who never even thought about taking aim.

I’m a small fish in a small pond, but I got into this business for a reason. Self-reflection is never a bad thing, especially in journalism (see above re complacency), but this kind of forced extreme is probably something that will bring about some incredible work if ideas take hold that inevitably bring out our best. Talk about a training field!

Great, thought-provoking piece.

I disagree. Everything about this administration is calculated. The worst thing anybody can do is underestimate it. Underestimation is critical to their strategy and it was key to their success. The other worst thing to do is to think “No, they wont do THAT.” Because history continues to show that they up the ante, double down, and hit back harder. And harder. And harder.

He is not crazy. Our confirmation bias wants to push us in the direction that the only explanation for this is insanity, because it is so hard to believe and accept the fact that these tactics are being used to undermine one of the cornerstones of our democracy. We don’t want to sound like the crazy conspiracy theorists we debunk. We need to put aside our shock and act as if it’s calculated.

We can do this with a clear conscience because 1) We can’t afford not to. Assuming incompetence throughout the campaign was a flawed perspective and failed to yield effective reporting that held the powerful to account. 2) The facts support a calculated mentality. He has hired, as terrible as it may seem and hard to accept, some of the most innovative thinkers and strategists in politics and media today who are following a very subversive psychological playbook. This is not the action of an irrational person. This is the action of someone who is very capable of cold calculation and megalomaniacal, autocratical ambitions.

This might be the most perceptive comment I have seen about Trump and his collaborators throughout the entire campaign, and I appreciate the way you’ve summed him up. I find him deceptive, cunning and completely and utterly frightening. The constant Tweeting is always a cover for something more dangerous–we should always, always be looking to see beneath the surface. Because there is something there, and it is often something dangerous.

T. Morgan says:

I think you have it exactly right.
We KEEP acting appalled at his outlandish, ridiculous, infantile, scary, inflammatory, unpresidential actions because we measure them against a “normal” person/president’s actions. In doing so, we act surprised over and over and over again.

He’s not normal. Never will be. He’s delusional, narcissistic, or some new personality disorder combination.

Delusional, narcissistic, self absorbed. Donald is so far gone, I don’t know how anyone can sit there long enough for him to get two sentences out before smoke comes out of their ears.

Barbara Raab says:

I loved Mika Brzezinski’s comment: “Sean Spicer’s first hostage video.”


…he certainly lost his head.

Media ethics lacks an empirical check. If the purpose is good health care, you can check if the patient is alive or dead. Lawyers can look to their clients and judge if they were well served. How do journalists judge if they have “served the truth?”

The lack of empirical feedback leaves a void that is filled by back rationalizing what they do into what they *should* do because it “serves the truth.” The result is the rather absurd situation where press conferences–invented by politicians for the express purpose of capturing the media–are believed to be per se important for democracy.

The idea of a complex “strategic plan” among a leader that simply spouts out whatever comes into his head–responds to each and every narcissistic wound–is far fetched.

Mr. Koenigsberg, you are assuming that Trump is the leader, in which case sophisticated strategies seem far-fetched. But Trump is the puppet of Putin, Bannon, and who knows who else has a hand up his skirt.

These guys are playing a long game, and they know exactly what they’re doing.

Bill Michtom says:

Please, Jennifer. The idea that Trump is a puppet of Putin denies the fact that the Republicans’ theft of people’s ability to vote is the real reason Trump won, as it was why W won.

Matt Springer says:

This comment is critical. Trump is very likely petty and narcissistic enough to be driving this behavior. But whether through conscious collusion or simply advantageously seizing this moment, the real minds of the administration are moving quickly to capitalize. Bannon wrote the address; where was he on the battle of crowd estimates? Jared Kushner? Silent, ever present, powerful. This administration will be used by those seeking to advance their own causes and self interests, including Trump himself, while we argue over “alternative facts.”

Camilla Cracchiolo says:

I think you’re right. Both things may be true. Trump may have dementia (I’m an RN. I think he displays plenty of signs) or otherwise mad. But it might also be very calculated and planned among other leaders in the administration, like Steve Bannon. And keep your eye on Pence. He’s a hard Christian ideologue, but no fool. He’s smart and effective and those cabinet picks have his fingerprints all over them.

“Hitler in 1933 told journalists that 62% of government posts were filled by Jews. Actually, the figure was less than 1%. Trump doesn’t “lie.” This assumes he knows what truth is. This is what people would LIKE TO BELIEVE. He’s way beyond this. He makes things up. DEEPLY pathological.”

It’s even more pathological than that, Richard. The Nazis said what they did not because it was true or because they believed it was true or even because they wanted other people to belive it was true, but because it was what would HAVE TO BE TRUE to justify what they intended to do. And Trump’s operation is working the same way.

Thanks Lex. All the latest historical findings indicate that Hitler and the Nazis did believe their own fantasies. They didn’t decide to kill Jews for reasons other than the desire to kill Jews. Paranoid leaders enact their own desires. SEE THE LINK BELOW for Jeffrey Herf’s book THE JEWISH ENEMY.

U mean like ‘if you like your doctor, health plan, president, you can keep them?
Willing suspensions of disbelief did not begin with the Nazis, but American progressives took it into the stratosphere. And of course josh eanest and his little twinkle predecessor were the most honest trustworthy press secs ever to stand at that lectern! No? NO?

Jon Rogers says:

Actually, Trump knows EXACTLY what the truth is. His strategy – and it’s quite calculated; he’s done it for years – is tell just enough of the truth to make the lie plausible. That makes it harder to refute his “alternative facts”. What has to be done, in my view, is follow Rosen’s advice, but also call the lies for what they are, vigorously, every time even the smallest one appears.

As a critic of CNN’s, I’d like to praise their decision to delay airing of the Spicer spinning event. Glad the network didn’t broadcast it live.

Agreed. CNN owes us that and so much more for 1.5 years of live, complete coverage / “breaking news” broadcast of every word uttered by him during the campaign. This done to the exclusion of other candidates who were attempting to give voice to real platforms. All for ratings.

Jerry Lanson says:

Absolutely agree.

Shawn Peirce says:

I’d go one step further, Jay. Trump made it clear at the CIA, & Spicer clearer at his expression of his boss’ Trumpertantrum that they clearly see the media as their enemy.

So legitimate media members need to treat everything that comes from Trump & company as they would treat anything coming from an enemy.

If someone is trying to write a story as though they were prosecuting a legal case? Assume all Trump representatives and anyone favorable to him is a hostile witness and/or a witness who is lying.

If Trump’s obvious goal is attention? Give him as little as possible.

If he wants to go to war with the media? Media should give him ehat he wants, in the most painful way possible.

Agreed. A showman needs a platform. Deny him and surrogate access to the platform for their propaganda.

Stuart O'Nwill says:

Precisely what showman hates…no platform. We have to admit, however, he now has Twitter mastered….but with curious lack of crowd…most of his audience comes from broadcast news repeating it. Wait until he discovers Facebook Live. He has a platform that hundreds of websites will repeat anything he says as gospel.
That is right up to the moment they realize he has betrayed every promise and it’s hitting *their* family in a painful way. That is where the media and the district political organizations need to make all of it very obvious.

So many journalists around the world don’t have the safety (at least for now) that American journalists have. Surely, there must be models of good journalism/journalists who are working under an authoritarian regime? Where should the press be looking for models?

Ellin Stein says:

Russia, where the techniques the Trump administration are employing were modeled.

Shelly Freierman says:

This parallels the false equivalency argument. Changing up the news “game rumes” would partially take away Trump’s ability to set the news agenda, to give petty gripes the same weight as policy or executive action. Cover policy, not rants.

You wrote Spencer at one point instead of Spicer. Not too much difference, I agree! But so far only one of them has been punched in the face.

Thanks. Fixed.

Thanks for this! I agree with most all of it, but have a bone to pick: there shouldn’t be any ‘interns’ (except maybe medical school where intern seems to mean something very specific). The work that ‘interns’ do in media generally resembles ‘an entry level job,’ but for the fact that most of them are unpaid, and complete their internships with nothing to put on their CVs besides ‘being an intern.’ Unpaid labor is ethically, morally and economically damaging if it can’t be described as volunteer work. This is a terrible problem in journalism.

I thought the term of art was, “cub reporter?”

Didn’t say unpaid. Unpaid internships have been disappearing from journalism.

Well — I think it’s not a great idea.

First, it’d mean putting the greenest and most vulnerable reporters in there. J-school has not prepared them for this. Spicer etc. will try to buy and co-opt them (and if you were 24, loaded with student debt, and your parents were still helping you with the rent on your tiny apartment, would you not be seducible? Maybe there’s a girl you want to impress? Maybe you don’t really know where the lines are?); if they can’t, they’ll do their best to terrorize them and drive them out of journalism altogether.

I’d say send a cartoonist. An old cartoonist who’s tough to scare. S/he can be the entire press corps.

That is brilliant. Better yet.


If Trump is trying to destroy the press, it is because he has some business intention to infiltrate media with his own brand — kind of the incentive for kissing Russia’s arse. He’s trying to get in to do business. But then kind of the reason to run too — it was to broaden brand influence. But I digress. Note the point about motive for press decimation.

Andrew Robotham says:

#sendtheinterns and similar initiatives are vital if the press is to find a way of holding Trump and his administration accountable. I do slightly worry (and to a large extent this that the amount of energy devoted by journalists and media (in terms for example of column inches) devoted to the “fake news”/”alternate facts” question is in istelf a successful strategy against the press. It seems to me that we are already seeing stories go to extraordinary lengths to prove the most basic (and sometimes unimportant) facts to what you poignantly call “the core Trump constituency”, the likes of who never did and never will be open to believing them. The resources that this whole truth debate swallow would surely be better spent in searching for and publishing information of far more significance to the functioning of our democracies (I am speaking from a European perspective). Throwing garbage fake facts probably does the press less harm in damaging its credibility than it does in contributing towards its self-damage (or ability to drown the real issues in noise of its own making). Trump’s tax return question is drowned by reputable media outlets talking at lengths about not only “aternative facts”, but Trump’s twitter typos etc.
I believe the following should be considered:
– issuing a common statement (and commitment) on bahalf of media committed to the truth and ethical journalism statiting that they will no longer publish/broadcast facts and information that cannot be trusted or verified (rather than loudly advertising it with consternation and outrage)
– rather than committing to evangelize non-believers (Trump’s conspiracists are by no means a new breed and by no means represent a majority, even though the current situation is unique), committing to improving independant in-depth reporting and investigative journalism
– (this may be slightly off topic) putting a stop to reporting and commentary/opinion of ridicule, whether towards Trump, his supporters or anyone else for that matter; the level of contempt stemming from some sectors of the left/liberal/centrist media has been damaging beyond measure and has fed into the hands of populists, hate groups and demagogues.

Andrew I agree 100% with both of your comments. The entire distract-n-destroy strategy is just that– while press and public are ensconced in fight-to-death debates re: the latest inane, maddening, falsehood or absurdity, the real policy damage is being done under distracted noses…the name of the game is corporate profit functioning at its best via the shock doctrine of alternative Facts and other Fables that keep public attention off the real ball in play…like healthcare, pipeline, cabinet, militarizing police, withdrawing from climate treaties, fanning flames for more production of privatized military profit within trump’s “war on terror”

Jane Brothers says:

Valid point to “Send the interns.” When we point to Trump instead of Bannon, we lose focus. Putin is the smokescreen for Bannon. Focus on Bannon and stop legitimizing Trump.

Jenny Nathan says:

I completely agree that Trump and his press surrogates engage in “relationship messaging” almost exclusively. The facts are never the story. Their treatment of the facts is always the story. As such, Spicer could not have revealed more than he did in this statement. Your analysis above is THE news. And, it is extremely important news. A couple of things to keep in mind: 1) This is theater. 2) Communication is inherently two-way. There are complex layers of interpretation to be applied. 3) This president does not need the press at all, except for bashing. If communicating with the people is his sole objective, he will always choose to do so directly. Here, he was changing the story from “low attendance at inauguration” to “the press made it seem like there was low attendance thus embarrassing our country.” There was a place in there where Spicer looked up as he used the word “patriotism.” That word is straight from Trump. That is the core of his message: to embarrass the president is unpatriotic and counter to our national interests…

Excellent prescription, Jay. I would suggest that the news media pursue two parallel efforts: 1) Inform Chief of Staff Reince Priebus that such inveterate liars as Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer are from now on cut off from reader/viewer mindshare and that the White House will have to find someone to speak publicly for the president who is demonstrably NOT an inveterate liar and will deal candidly with the news media. Obviously, that may or may not (probably won’t) happen, which is why media also should 2) apply itself solely and entirely to enterprise and investigative stories without WH input, contacting the WH for comment only on stories that are ready for publication/broadcast and that will be distributed with or without official comment.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Trump White House is trying to make the media its bitch. But this is America, that’s not how we do things, and these parallel approaches will send a strong signal to both the White House and the reading/viewing public that that is the case. Will Trump’s fans bitch? But they’d bitch anyway, so fuck them — if they don’t like it, they can move to Russia.

tom sulcer says:

Why even send interns? Which costs money. Why not boycott press “briefings”?

Because when you suggest to journalists “do X, instead of Y” they say back to: you need both! Also, they are reluctant to give up any ritual if they think there’s even a tiny chance of real news breaking out. In other words FOMO up the wazoo. So in recognition of these facts…. #sendtheinterns.

Irwin Gratz says:

Have wondered since you first posited last summer that the news media needed a new paradigm to cover the Trump candidacy what exactly that would look like. Your suggestions make sense as a part of that. I wondered what it might have been like if, at the Trump news conference in New York, the media had supported Jim Acosta of CNN by either having the next reporter called on defer to Acosta or, collectively refusing to pose any additional questions until his was allowed to be asked.


The press shouldn’t fall prey to the sleight of hand / distraction tactics Trump employs. It’s the same vicious cycle of woo/use/abuse.

Erin Murphy says:

#sendtheinterns is the kind of forehead-smacking idea that I hope publications jump on. I think it would do immeasurable good to have experienced reporters doing important work instead of sitting in that room. The missing piece for me is up the ladder of journalism — who decides stories’ priority/emphasis. In October, editors of respected newspapers decided the big stories were “HRC’s Emails” and “HRC Will Win,” when in retrospect they ought to have been “Russians Influencing U.S. Election” and “Trump Will Win.” After the apologies, will they make more informed decisions? Or will we still see articles like “Hillary’s Emails” given all the weight of Watergate while real problems are on page 2 or not covered at all?

t1gerlilly says:

Yeah, I’ve seen exactly zero serious introspection from the press on the way that their coverage influenced the election. (They always end up throwing up their hands and saying – ‘but how could we have known’ and ‘what could we have done’. When most average Americans would suggest a little more shoe leather and elbow grease in pounding the pavement and telling truth to power)
I haven’t seen a substantive examination of sexism at all. It’s amazing to me that in an election that featured a female candidate, the press can at least recognize the racism inherent in many of the statements of Trump supports, but simply fail to comprehend that sexism was also a significant factor in the campaign and coverage. (This is both male and female journalists, by the way. Lack of basic critical thinking is apparently gender-neutral).
Before the election there was little recognition of underlying cultural issues that divide the nation. Since it, I keep seeing calls to pander to or compromise with positions that undermine federally protected rights and bedrock American principles. Hell, freedom of religion, freedom to peaceably assemble, and separation of church and state are under attack both federally and in the states.
There’s a distinct lack of coverage of the local corruption and corporate capture of state governments that is fueling southern anti-government sentiment, especially around environmental issues.
I watched Meet the Press for the first time in a long time last week and was literally nauseated. What a roundup of plagiarists, toadies, globalists, and rogues. I consider myself exceptionally lucky and even I have a better sense of the reactions and situation of most Americans than what the ‘washington press’ presents. Do they know NO young people? Rural families? People of color? Gay people? Are they really protected by that many layers of privilege that they don’t at least have SOME sense of our country? Of the anger, despair, struggle, and hunger of so many of us? It was just stunning to me. Sickening.

paul lukasiak says:

Instead of “interns”, I’d call them “apprentices” — because high-status reporters might be willing to give up the cramped White House quarters, but they won’t give up their by-lines. “Apprentices” might let them keep their front page positions, while freeing up some time for real reporting.

The real story that arose from the Spicer briefing is that the press reacted because Spicer violated the “sacred space” of the White House Press Room. Team Trump has been lying with impunity for the entire campaign, but only now has the press gone apoplectic. All that really changed was the venue. (Its probably not a coincidence that so much energy was put into “reporting” about the possibility of getting the press pool out of the West Wing. While that might constitute “news” on a slow news day, we haven’t had a slow news day in weeks — so why do I even know about it?)

Spicer may have broken some kind of prime directive, like “White House Reporters Never Have To Look Stuff Up” — that all they need to do is “repeat and bloviate” once they achieve the vaunted White House correspondent position.

So yeah, send in the interns/apprentices. And get those interns out of the cramped West Wing, and into spaces where they can get some work done.

Okay, apprentices.

t1gerlilly says:

Doesn’t matter what you call them. Just get some kids in there that are fired up and don’t have anything to lose. Rotate them so they can’t become targets. But let them be provocative. Let them be confrontational. And get them to work together – so that Spicer can’t evade by turning to another source.

Michael Brazier says:

A relevant post from Instapundit:

“Trump knows that the press isn’t trusted very much, and that the less it’s trusted, the less it can hurt him. So he’s prodding reporters to do things that will make them less trusted, and they’re constantly taking the bait. They’re taking the bait because they think he’s dumb, and impulsive, and lacking self-control — but he’s the one causing them to act in ways that are dumb and impulsive, and demonstrate lack of self-control. …”

“The counter-move for the press isn’t to double down on anti-Trump messaging. The counter-move is to bolster its own trustworthiness by acting more neutral and sober, and by being more trustworthy. If the news media actually focused on reporting facts accurately and straightforwardly, on leaving opinion to the pundits, and on giving Trump a clearly fair shake, then Trump’s tactics wouldn’t work, and any actual dirt they found on him would do actual damage. He’s betting on the press being insufficiently mature and self-controlled to manage that. So far, his bet is paying off.”

Yeah, Glenn Reynolds hasn’t been right about anything journalism-related since God was a child. He used to be thoughtful, but he gave that up for Lent somewhere around 2005.

Michael Brazier says:

Do you realize that in the post I linked and quoted, Reynolds was giving almost the same advice our host has been giving for the past two months? The chief difference is that Reynolds doesn’t expect any part of the press to follow his advice, even by inadvertence.

When is the last time that the news out of one of these performances was not simply about what the position of the administration was? And how often did that happen? The fact is that access is offered up these days on a basis of compliance. One side is holding all the cards and that side doesn’t need a press pass. When is the Press going to understand they are the hostage?

Glad to see somebody can see through the attempts to generate confusion and chaos. These are the times when good, experienced journalists must put aside ego and get back to basics. This administration is counting on self-interest and ego of individual people (journalists and politicians alike) to undermine the power of their respective institution as a whole.

Add to this tactic, never send the same interns twice. Keep them guessing and off balance. Never familiar faces. Prepare the interns with a crash course in what to expect. Have them report back not just the briefing, but anything about the proceedings beyond the briefing itself. Getting in, getting out. Who else was there.

Yes this presents a big logistical hurdle for getting press credentials, and expect a quick pivot by the administration to limit the number of badge requests. When that happens, coach the interns to wear their hair differently, never the same outfit. Get non-prescription glasses if they don’t wear them. Guys grow and shave facial hair. When the administration pivots again and requires only “published” journalists access, start a “Voice of the Interns” blog on your site. Give them a mic and let them do a live shot targeted to Millennials, or on Snapchat. Claim your big names are off chasing bigger stories, which will be the truth.

Encourage the interns to share and talk with interns from other organizations. Let this be the equivalent of “diplomatic back channel” communication between news organizations that would otherwise be unable to openly dialog because of corporate competition.

Most of all, debrief the interns and capture everything to create a dynamic, responsive record of strategies and tactics, to spot trends and formulate counter-strategies. Share these documents freely between news organizations via the above mentioned back channels.

sit andrea mitchell in the cia lobby, and matthews at fbi.
put anderson cooper at the justice dept.

yes, this is a really good idea.

whether or not this is intentional is probably irrelevant. i think that this is just the typical, twisted path of a typical, twisted authoritarian. whether he is in control of what is happening between his ears does not alter where this is going. either way, he is unreachable, as are his followers.
there is actually plenty of social science research, instigated by ww2, into this sadly common phenomena. john dean has been writing about it for quite some time. his book, “conservatives without conscience” should be required reading for the entire press corp, and anyone else scratching their heads about how we got here. the tl/dr-treating children like cattle causes grown ups who act like cattle. their brains are stunted. many cannot be reached.

The president uses “alternative facts,”
Tells the CIA that he’s got their backs
A million women are marching now
And Sean Spicer is having a cow

Looks like another dog-and-pony show
For the interns.

The blond boy makes the press into hate objects
There’s no news here—what did you expect?
He’s got narcissistic impunity
The obvious things are secrecies
Looks like another dog-and-pony show
For the interns.
Send the interns
Send the interns


Wherever there is bullshit
The media puts the interns at
Spicer in the press room
Conway on the Sunday chat…

The president uses “alternative facts,”
Tells the CIA that he’s got their backs
A million women are marching now
And Sean Spicer is having a cow

Looks like another dog-and-pony show
For the interns.
Send the interns
Send for me.

Ellin Stein says:

Trump lives for his ratings, so deny him the oxygen of publicity as much as possible. Don’t let the lügenpresse narrative take hold. I completely agree that digging into stories about the supporting players instead of focusing on the attention-hungry star is the way to go. For example, if I were an enterprising editor, I would send an intrepid investigative reporter to infiltrate the Trump claque that was a feature of the news conference and the CIA briefing. As well, I’d spend more time looking into what the (mostly) men behind the curtain are doing, like this: Ironically, Spicer may have done American journalism a huge favor by restoring the adversarial model and getting rid of the incentive to cuddle up to potential sources. As someone observed, we must all be I.F. Stone now.

Christopher Foster says:

What do you recommend to TV correspondents when Trump surrogates refuse to make any good faith attempt to answer a simple, but important question? I think they should simply terminate the interview because it’s not serving any journalistic purpose.

Look at Chuck Todd’s very recent interview of Kellyanne Conway when he asked why Spicer lied about the inauguration crowd. She just threatened him, then attacked the media. Ignored the question altogether. It would have been easy for her to “spin” an answer: “We were delighted about the crowd size and the enthusiasm for this administration. We have a new beginning. We have a lot of work to do. Frankly, the exact crowd size is not important.” Something like that.

Instead, Todd allowed her to spew propaganda. And the spectacle served Trump’s media-bias narrative to his supporters.

Todd should have terminated the interview, apologized to viewers. He should then have patiently explained his rationale.

Jon Rogers says:

But I wonder, Christopher, whether the big-time broadcast journalists have the cojones to do that? The ratings games, and in many cases the pressure from the corporate offices that want a different result dictate too many constraints on cutting off the bs and explaining the need for the integrity of the action.

Christopher Foster says:

You might be right that the TV talent may lack the guts. But in what subject matter other than politics would a person be permitted to continuously make false statements?

Science? Film? Sports?

At some point, it just becomes absurd.

Paul Lukasiak says:

I agree, with the proviso that the rules apply to everyone, not just Trumpists.

I’d also suggest that there be an escalation
#1) The first time the question is evaded, interrupt the person, note the non-answer and ask the question again
#2) The second time the question is evaded, turn off the mike, notify the person that their mike has been turned off, and ask the question again
#3) If the question remains evaded after the third time its asked, the interview is terminated.

Procedures also need to be standardized for the “answer, then pivot” response (i.e. if you get an answer, then the interviewee changes the subject, just interrupt and move on) and other answer-avoidance strategies.

Yep. Get the press c orps out of the WH press room. That’s exactly what I suggested in a 200-word letter to the NYT. If need be, leave a rotating small pool to cover whatever Spicer or Conway choose to announce and to ask questions from colleagues (as if anyone will answer them). Then fan the rest of the reporters into the executive branch (legislative too) to do some critical investigative and interpretive reporting. Reporters and editors will have to adjust. What about the WH? Who cares?

I think this is right. And the media can make this move seem very logical. Trump has demonstrated that a press corps isn’t necessary to get the President’s message out in the Twitter era. OK–tell him that! “Hey, TRUMPOTUS, you can Tweet to the country–have fun! Don’t worry about us…we’ll be digging around backstage.”

Heidi Spillum says:

Send the interns, the questioners… gaslighting is the new norm, so bring it, we all have a global responsibility to our family, friends… friends on all continents to speak up for any atrocities that compromise our life on this globe.

Best to call it paranoid delusion: face the profound pathology involved.

I am not an expert on journalism, or the proper way to respond to the new President. But I know a lot about Fascism and Nazism and Hitler.

The most important thing to understand is that Hitler (and Goebbels and Himmler) genuinely BELIEVED THEIR FANTASIES. Paranoia lay at the heart of the Nazi movement: there was no “strategy,” except for the desire to KILL JEWS.

As Jeffrey Herf points out (check out the link below), World War II (the attack on the Soviet Union) was begun for the same reason: to destroy “Jewish Bolshevism.”

When I speak of pathology, I’m not speaking of personal pathology: there is a collective pathology, which is generated by the leader. When pathology occurs in politics, we DON’T CALL IT PATHOLOGY.

Chris J. Breisch says:

Oh, come on. This is one of the whiniest pieces I’ve read in years, and the comments are even worse.

Better idea. Stop acting like the enemy, and perhaps you’ll stop being treated as such.

Return to basic objective fact based reporting. Stop trying to score political points.

The Trump administration is going to pick a fight with the media any time they think they can win. Trust of the media is at an all-time low, so they figure they can get away with it and drive that trust even lower. Then they can present the message they want.

You want to stop this? Stop giving them easy things to fight about.

Do your job and then maybe Spicer will be able to do his.

Roline Byrd says:

I agree. It is sad to watch the media try to tell us what to think instead of doing their job and covering the news. When they do cover it they manage to twist it into a negative. What’s wrong with those people? Don’t they think we know they are liberals?

Spicer should have stuck with the MLK bust issue, discuss the basic concept of verifying your “facts”, particularly when it could start or enforce a meme ‘Trump hates black people”. Maybe kick Time out of the press pool for a month. The other part, he could have just stated that it was interesting that the only thing the media seemed to take away from the inauguration was the desire to gloat over the size of the crowd, and if that is what they think is important, then they will focus on journalists who actually care about real issues, not optics and cheap shots.

“Trump tells lawmakers 3-5 million illegal ballots cost him the popular vote.”

Indicative of several mental illness, not “strategy.” Wake up journalists. He’s delusional. You are REALLY in trouble.

(I discuss the Trump phenomenon on my website below).

Michael Brazier says:

1) Clinton’s margin in the 2016 popular vote came entirely from California;
2) California’s share of illegal immigrants is well above the national average;
3) California’s election security is amazingly lax, automatically registering anyone who obtains a driver’s license to vote.

Trump is probably wrong to ascribe all the margin in the popular vote to illegal ballots, but it’s not obviously insane for him to think so, given those three facts.

Emily Dean says:

I am not part of the press just an ordinary, miserable citizen, deeply distressed at what is happening to my country. While the question of interns/apprentices vs. seasoned reporters is being hashed about why not start out quite simply with fewer or no pictures of Trump and entourage, or if required than small ones in newspapers, preferably in B&W, and a similar down-sizing on TV and electronic media. It would certainly send signals to the President that he is not always at the center of things.

The interns, or junior people, call them what you will, have been on duty for 8 years already. “Jaw meet floor,” how about sycophant meet self.

Please do this. It will make it so much easier to discredit you.

The central mental characteristic of Donald Trump is not “lying,” but DENIAL OF REALITY. This is the main characteristic of the journalists covering him. In refusing to recognize that he is severely mentally disturbed, they are engaged in a DENIAL OF REALITY. It will go on and on, one bizarre statement after another.

And soon highly bizarre, destructive ACTIONS. And all the while, journalists will insist he has a “strategy.” Denial of reality. Denial of delusional thought at the center of the political system.

Peter Taber says:

Given that advances in technology allow the Livestreaming of any event has not the White House Press Corps become a bit of an anachronism? If the purpose of the exercise is to inform, why not let the public watch the briefing and decide for themselves. C-SPAN, for example, provides marvelous live coverage of events, sans any editorial kibitzing. Using technology this way, Reporters would still be free to write what they will, and people could see for themselves what was actually said.

Peter: briefing are televised. People can watch them. They’re on C-Span. This one was on C-Span. The clip I embedded in the post is from C-Span. The reporters are there to ask questions. Which Spicer did not permit.

I was bemused by your anger and vitriol after only experiencing a few short days of the Trump administration. You state in your article that this is because you felt that Spicer was “mixing provable falsehoods with culture war attacks” instead of doing what he was supposed to do, which is disseminate the facts.

Imagine the outrage of we, the unwashed masses, who have had to put up with exactly the same thing from the media for the past thirty years or so. Instead of receiving news information in an objective way, we’ve been subjected to the same editorialized falsehoods and culture war attacks from the liberal press.

It does create upset and outrage to be treated that way. I get it. For members of the press to finally feel it and see it from our vantage point is somehow refreshing and hopefully cleansing for your condescending souls.

I hear this complaint a lot. Since there is no such thing as “the media” as a one-headed thing — there are roughly one zillion disparate mediums — I deduce that the complainers simply never learned to read critically, with adult-grade comprehension.

Like most writers/reporters/journalists, I am incapable of crafting my words so they precisely comport to the delicate sensibilities of “Paul.”

Roline Byrd says:

Maybe not, but I think that what he, what most people want is objectivity and ability to do one’s job without bias. Most of the American people don’t think much of the main stream media precisely because it is claiming the moral high ground to choose a political party and then slant the news so that it favors that party’s candidates and goals.

The media has been caught colluding with the Clinton campaign. I HAVE to go online to get news that the mainstream media will not cover as it puts Trump in a positive light. The media calls our president names and makes accusations that just a little research would reveal are untrue. This is why most of the media is so intensely disliked and mistrusted by the majority of the people in “flyover country”.

David J Swift says:

There it is again. “The media.”

This “the media” thing exists due to the crack right wing propaganda machine, which invented “the media” as a hate object in order to confuse the credulous and diminish the concept of verifiable truths.

Comment received on Twitter: I get your point but a tad harsh on the poor interns? How do they learn anything when being spoonfed utter shite by WH?

It’s remarkable to me how many well-meaning people on social media have told me that my suggestion to ‘send the interns’ is abusive to interns, how they wouldn’t be able to take the trauma of it, how we would be doing them a disservice to put them in that environment where they would have to face public lying, so how could I make such a heartless suggestion? And on and on.

Some things remarkable about this to me: 1.) how easily these comments infantalize journalism interns, as if they were incapable of, say, reading my post and realizing why they are there, steeling themselves for the experience and learning from it, even the more disappointing or shocking features of it; 2.) how casually these comments assume that the interns would just be thrown to the wolves without guidance, training, or support, which would be… you know, stupid; 3.) how little the commenters know about the best journalism interns; 4.) and how ready they are to assume they know more about my own students than I do. I am a journalism instructor, after all. For thirty years I have been teaching young people who want to be journalists and are eager to be put in challenging situations. I might know a little about how the best of them would react to an assignment like this. Just a little.

I tried to be polite in my replies but man… it gets hard sometimes.

Steven J Weinberg says:

I think what is being suggested is that the media is being challenged to use their imagination in order to make press coverage of this administration THE NEWS. Varying coverage, getting them to dispute what’s being done, doing excellent investigative reporting with the reduced staffs they all have, generally being creative and unpredictable and newsworthy. Yippie journalism.

Steven J Weinberg says:

The Trump supporters that troll this site? Is that some sort of reverse compliment that this site is important to have them trolling here? But these Trump trolls seem to be almost everywhere. Is there a way to gather information on the people who invest so much energy on social media disruption on Trump’s behalf? Does the FBI keep track of them? Seriously, they are the shock troops aiding and abetting the right wing’s undermining of our Democracy. We need to keep a list. We need to know where to find these guys.

The Trump supporters that troll this site: Is that some sort of reverse compliment that this site is important to have them trolling here?

Thanks, Steve. They don’t believe anything from the mainstream media and think the profession of journalism corrupt. Also no one trusts it any longer and so it doesn’t matter. Also: “you brought this on yourselves.” That’s why they come to my site and scream calmly at me, hoping I will engage them in any of the numberless grievances they have or try to dispute their “every study has shown” evidence, which towers over all discussion, ending it before it needs to begin.

I generally decline.

They show up here because journalism doesn’t matter. (Got that?) They show up here because the press is impotent. They show up here because the media have no one but themselves to blame for their utter irrelevance. Because there are no reporters any more: just card-carrying Democrats waving their opinions around. Journalists have been discredited with the populace. Powerless and superseded, the established press simply doesn’t count any more. That’s why they show up here. To jeer at it, this discarded hulk. And to drill me in the facts of their irrefutable case. To have someone intimate with the subject suitable for hating purposes.

Intimate with the subject, but ignorant too. Because in their minds I have never encounted any of this (when actually I have been listening to it ad nauseam for 12 years.) They think I have no idea how much hatred they have in their hearts for the mainstream press. I’m just sailing along clueless about the alienation real Americans feel from the profession of journalism because I’m bubbled out and ivoried to death.

Here’s what I wrote about all this in an earlier piece:

For the most part committed Trump supporters and people in the conservative movement have one thing to say: There is no journalism, there are no journalists. There is only politics — Democratic party politics — going on. In this view, the people who call themselves journalists are not trying to find out what’s happening and tell the voters. They are not struggling to hold the candidates accountable while holding on to their audiences. They are Democrats trying to win the election for their side. That’s why no one with any sense trusts them— again, according to this view.

“Democratic operatives with bylines” (coined by Glenn Reynolds) is the phrase that best captures this sense, which has become pervasive on the right. I hear that sentiment all the time from drive-bys on Twitter and in the comment section of my site. It is rocket fuel for the Trump candidacy, and bedrock for the Breitbart view of the world, in which “the media” and “the left” are interchangeable terms. I’m not dismissing the importance of this view; on the contrary, I think it is one of the most consequential developments in American politics in the last 50 years. But to take it seriously is to recognize just how completely the militant right has eclipsed journalism from its world view and media critique. There is no real reporting, just endless bias. There is no profession there with a code of conduct and a public service mission. Just politics: party agents with press cards. Because it is a fraudulent actor, “the media” must be defeated, discredited, and replaced.

Michael Brazier says:

Since I’m sure you put me in this category: I come here because you, Dr. Rosen, are one of the few people I know of who, though not a conservative, actually recognizes systematic flaws in the modern practice of journalism. It makes you seem persuadable.

That said, when you defend journalism as a profession by pointing to journalists who are doing their jobs, it reminds me of the old cartoon from Punch: “Bishop: ‘I’m afraid you’ve got a bad egg, Mr Jones’; Curate: ‘Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!'”

Yes, I put you in this category.

seems to me you are describing rationalizations rather than the primary cause: compulsive denial of ideas that threaten their authoritarian ideology. though everyone prefers debating republican vs democrat, the core dynamic in our current ugly politics is really the one george lackoff pointed out in his book, “moral politics”: strict father/conservative vs nurturing mother/progressive. the trumpists want to be ruled by strict authoritarians, because by and large they’re survivors of “strict father” parenting: independent thought is verboten and you must agree with the views of your parents. this parenting style undermines rationality and smothers intuition, filling you with ideas you must believe and protect at all costs, but that you can’t defend rationally. to consider a different way of thinking is experienced as disloyalty. therefore, they compulsively reject ideas that don’t conform to what they are allowed to believe. these foriegn ideas don’t just need to be crowded out, they need to be destroyed, or the threat continues to exist. this explains their need to troll and threaten and bully people on social media rather than argue the merits of the concepts. the intelligent children of authoritarians are sensitive to being seen as irrational, so they either come up with complex logic that ultimately cannot proven – quoting obscure books, concocting conspiracy theories – in order to make it sound like their behavior follows from thoughtful reasoning, or they become experts in “the rules” of how things are supposed to be for “normal people,” preaching against those who see the world differently. behind the artifice, the truth is they are still automatically regurgitating the ideas that were forced upon them in childhood.

Timothy in Columbus says:

I’m disappointed that your reply, Mr. Rosen, seems to be a response full of anger/bitterness and emotion (as opposed to the more professorial tone I usually read on this site). Maybe you’re just frustrated. I hope you don’t reach a point where you feel like you don’t even want to entertain a discussion with people who disagree with you.

I am by no means a Trumpster — in fact, I was actually a NeverTrump-er (in the Jonah Goldberg camp) during the primaries & general election. But I was also NeverHillary, as I found her to be an equally terrible candidate.

I come to your site because I value your thoughts & opinions (even though I don’t always agree with you). What frustrates me is the sudden intensive focus by journalists on all-things-Trump. Where was that energy and passion these past 8 years? Where was the outwardly stated determination to turn over every rock and peer into every shadow during the previous presidential administration? Why was it OK for journalists (in general) to “get the tingle up their leg” & write columns/cover stories about “Obama the Savior” — while leaving aside all pretense of objectivity?

There’s a reason why the media is less-trusted now than ever before. I’m curious how often (if ever) you talk to your classes about WHY the state of journalism is held in such low esteem.

There is no discussion to be with the hard core liberal bias viewpoint and the culture war division of the conservative movement. Just the sound of a jackhammer. Just a drilling of the same points over and over, year after year, without end. After you have absorbed 12 years of that tell me if you feel frustrated.

I don’t agree with your “of course, everyone knows the press simply disappeared” description of what happened over the last eight years with coverage of Obama, and I have no intention of engaging in hand-to-hand combat with you over every fact or anecdote that you think establishes that description. It’s exhausting and absurd and I won’t do it because it is not a good faith discussion.

Nor do I accept that, as threats to a free press there is any comparison to be made between Obama and Trump. Trump’s rise to power is in another category of threat, another world, unlike any president since Wilson. Why do I say that? I wrote a post about it.

Nor do I agree with another hardened concrete-bunker talking point on the right: that the press was unconcerned about the several ways in which Obama did threaten a free press as a check on power, as with the leak investigations, the crackdown of whistleblowers, foot dragging on FOIA requests, blocking news photographers and a “control freak” mentality about information flow. The notion that the press was “soft” on these worrisome moves by the Obama White House, that it didn’t protest or draw attention to them because it was so so in love with Obama is a big fat ass lie.

Timothy in Columbus says:

My final comment (for which you’re probably grateful): If you think you’re tired of the constant “drilling of the same points over and over, year after year, without end” then all I can say is, “I’m sorry about that – I am too.” We wish we didn’t have to keep talking about this, either [and by “we” I mean those of us who are not in a position to do something on the inside, but who simply wish for it to be possible to get a straight-forward reporting of the news].

But, you see, Jay, that “hammering” is all we can do. NOTHING has changed to cause us to stop; in fact, it’s only gotten worse. So I’m sorry that you’re tired of the non-stop hammering, but unless journalists as a whole stop with double-standards & picking sides, etc., then I suppose the hammering will have to continue.

Final point (what I think the “problem” largely boils down to):
I worked in the newsroom of a daily newspaper during a presidential election. On election night, when the networks called the election for the Republican, there was an immediate reaction of utter despair all around the newsroom. There were tears and exclamations, and curses. I was not able to locate one other conservative in the entire room – not one.

Now you tell me how it’s possible to produce good, objective, sustained (and dare I say, unbiased) political journalism when there is simply NO ONE in a newsroom who can even comprehend where 50% of the population is coming from? Where do half of us sign up to get the solid news we’re seeking???

…I suppose the hammering will have to continue.

Precisely my point.

Roline Byrd says:

Exactly what I was trying to say. I wish I could have gotten it across half as well.

Timothy in Columbus says:

Here’s a great example of how media is struggling — and why it has lost so much credibility:

The story of Ibtihaj Muhammad, the US Olympian who vaguely claimed to have been “detained” due to the president’s travel ban. EVERY major media site rushed to get the story out. “Horrible president does horrible thing which leads to a US citizen being detained blah blah blah.” ESPN, SI, Time — everyone — just couldn’t wait to get this story out to the masses (salivating at the thought of being able to ding the new president). The problem is, the act of being “detained” (which she wasn’t really, to begin with) occurred in December — before Trump was even president! This had nothing to do with Pres. Trump.

The problem: the media is so invested in “getting” Trump, in hurting him, in “proving” that he’s the world’s worst human being, that all the standard journalistic practices go out the window. Double-checking the dates she said she was detained? Verifying specifics? Nailing down all the facts? It simply wasn’t done. And this wasn’t just one news outlet; this was pretty much everyone.

This is the exact type of news coverage that has millions of Americans shaking their head, muttering about “fake news.” This is why no one trusts the media. What happened to the importance of actually getting the story right?!!

What can be done (by someone like you, who teaches journalism) to FIX this problem?????

Jen Fries says:

I’m not a journalist but rather a reader/viewer of news. I am excited about this #sendtheinterns idea, because from the audience perspective, inside-out story generation and the culture of embeddedness has created the impression that the media have been corrupted, to put not too fine a point on it. This is, of course, an illusion. There’s always been a lot of good journalism, but that raises another issue. We consumers have to work pretty hard these days to find the good journalism, and from our viewpoint (based on conversations I’ve had about it in various venues), it seems like the problem is the corporate ownership of media. Trump supporters may trust no one in the media, but on the progressive side, many of us do trust journalists but do not trust the companies they work for. Will the owners of news media permit a sendtheinterns approach, and if they do not, what will journalists do then? What can your audience do to support this outside-in approach?

This from German journalists who in cooperation with colleagues across the globe uncovered the Panama papers. A call for media solidarity.

“American journalists should stop him from dividing their ranks – however hard their professional competition may be. They should do the opposite: unite, share and collaborate. Even if doing so would mean embracing something quite unfamiliar and new to American journalism.”

“The next time Donald Trump tries to single out a reporter, or doesn’t answer a question, the next reporter who’s allowed to speak should repeat the question of the journalist Trump has snubbed. And if Trump stops this reporter, too, then the next one should repeat the original question, and so on. This would be a new, unusual approach. But if the media doesn’t want to see more press conferences like the disastrous one we saw recently, they will need to be bold.”

The article is here:

Jay – I have been complaining about the state of journalism since the election. I think journalist missed the story of 2016 big time by focusing on how bad Trump appeared to them rather than showing how real of a threat he was to the election. As a result I think journalists were part of the reason Trump got elected. My complaint is that journalist have gotten too lazy, trying to “fight crime” from behind the reporters desk rather than getting into the field to find the real stories.

Your suggestion for reporters to stop focusing on the press briefing room and start doing the work on the edges of the administration is SPOT ON!! Such an appropriate way to improve the current state of journalism which is way too focused on churning out 5-6 stories a week per reporter that will lead to clicks. If journalism wants to win us cynics over, they need to be journalists, reporters, gate keepers and investigators, rather than tools that re-report canned press briefings.

Your article is the best idea to come out of the current discussion on what the hell to do about this loon in the white house.

“what would you call it? (It’s 5:32)”

– Flesh tweet
– 3rd party tweet
– hand puppet delivery of third party tweet

I’ve got a million of ’em

Imagine the world if we all hired people to go around spouting our tweets irl.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m glad I’m old.

Roline Byrd says:

I may have commented too much, but it is truly frustrating to have to hunt down good reliable news. I was not a Trump supporter but I was “never-Hillary” so I did end up voting for him.

I do not want opinion or spin from reporters, I just want the facts. That means that the reporter needs to watch his/her words and phrasing. I do not think the media has any better judgement than I do and certainly they do not share my morals or values. Some are educated similarly but most are not. In short, I form my own opinions.

Too often I have seen a speech where the media coverage did not even bear any relationship to what Donald Trump said. Something is sincerely wrong with that picture. I hope that the media will reconsider their position and their responsibility to the American people, however, I do not place much faith in such a development.

Anon for Now says:

Well, but: Trump has Twitter. You can read his words directly, a steady flow of them.

I’m curious: is there any other possible media function that you would regard as legitimate?

I asked Andrew Tyndall, publisher of the Tyndall Report, which monitors what the major networks are covering as news, about the very frequent (and flippant) reply I get when I pose the question: why do TV journalists interview Kellyanne Conway so often? The reply: ratings, you idiot. Usually uttered in the tone of: ‘where have you been?’ So I asked Andrew, who knows as much as anyone about the TV news business, to evaluate this answer: “ratings… you idiot.” Here is what he said:

Yes, all of the networks check their Sunday morning Nielsen ratings against their roster of guests to monitor which ones attract audiences and which ones alienate them. Of course they do.

But in the grand order of things, the boost or drag of any given guest is de minimis. Almost the only time one hears about a huge benefit for an individual show being correlated with an appearance by an individual guest is when an individual show has an exclusive with a sitting president.

Conway’s appearances are almost never exclusives — she does the rounds. So hers are not the type of appearances that are touted as ratings bonanzas.

Secondly, such considerations are de minims for the the network news divisions: even if she did provide a boost in viewership in percentage terms, the base of viewers to begin with is so low on Sunday mornings that the revenue generated from the absolute increase in viewers is insignificant in terms of their overall operations.

In other words: Conway or no Conway is nothing compared with an extra ratings point for Today or GMA, which is where the real money is made for network news.

The Sunday morning shows are about journalistic prestige and agenda setting inside-the-Beltway. A Russert-quality Q-&-A performance by a Todd or a Tapper or a Dickerson is worth much more than a few extra ratings points to the network for its bragging rights and for its future ability to land powerful newsmakers as guests.

There is no doubt that Todd’s reputation was helped by his ability to produce the much disseminated soundbite on alternate facts and falsehoods. That reputation boost is worth much more, over the long term, to Meet The Press than any spike there might have been in Nielsen ratings because of Conway’s appearance.

Seems that institutional boost in stature gained from that one soundbite (Todd’s alt-facts = falsehoods) is a high price to pay in return for exposing hosts’ ineptitude in dealing with her (& others who frustrate them).

James Petrilli says:

For immediate release to Whitehouse press:
Answers to all subsequent questions regarding recent executive orders will simply be referred by letter to the key of pre-scripted and approved answers below:

[A] “Get over it”

[B] “Hey, shit happens”

[C] “You’re kidding, right?

[D] ” Because they’re brown, but if you print that, I’ll deny it.”

[E] “Fuck outta here!”

[F] —Rolling eyes, making jag-off motion—

[G] “Because fuck you, that’s why.”

[H] “I’m sorry, but you’ve mistaken me for someone who gives a shit”

[I] “Donald Trump is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.”

[J] “Yeah, we were lying about that”

[K] —Forming circle wth thumb & forefinger to indicate amount of fucks the president gives.—

Tim Leddy says:

A message to the news outlets, please follow Jay Rosen’s advice. Send in the interns to the White House Press Conferences. Send the experienced journalists out to the country to learn what troubles the citizens truly face as the actions of the Trump administration unfold.

Why not unite to ignore his Twitter, or better shut Twitter down in protest. I don’t think Twitter improves anyone’s ability to be a good journalist, and it may detract. It does not promote civil discussion of nuanced issues. The founder’s of Twitter and their board have the power to take away Trump’s favorite toy. What would happen if they did.

Fantasy, I know. But I had to say it at a moment when I am more skeptical of Twitter (or Fritter, as I call it) than ever.

Hi, Saw you on The Last Word tonight. You and Rachel have definitely caught on to one of the traps that can be laid for the press. Focusing on the easy to disprove lies can be a bad trap. It’s easy for viewers to understand, tweet about, but what are you missing in the meantime.

The question that I wish were asked about this ban – is this: “When President first announced the muslim ban, he said that it should be put in place “until we know what the hell is going on.”

Question #1 Exactly what effort has he put into learning about the process of obtaining visas and green cards (you would think with two immigrant wives, he would be somewhat aware — but this is a man whose modelling agency tells their foreign models to come in on tourist visas).

#2 Did he meet with Homeland Security? He says he wants “extreme” vetting – does he have a commission of people with a plan to come up with new procedures? Who are they? What are they doing? (Probably no such task force exists).

#3 What about the people who were “disappeared” – who were taken to detention centers without counsel. These are much more important questions than replaying the 140 characters on his twitter feed and spending 10 minutes watching pundits reinterpret Trump.

We live in a very weird times in journalism. Our integrity and credibility are at stake. We need to focus on the facts. Straight up facts. We have focused so much on speed and getting everything out there fast that we have forgotten the essentials of journalism. We might live in a digital world but we should rely on our values and fundamentals to thrive. Adapt to the digital world with old journalism values. Our job is to report and not get involved. Our profession is tainted and we have to clean up our act by going back to the basics.