WashU Expert: Magarian offers advice to journalists covering Trump administration

'Currency of access due for a recession,' so focus instead on 'consequences of policy choices'

White House press briefing room

Greg Magarian, professor in the School of Law at Washington University in St. Louis, is an expert on Constitutional law, including freedoms of press and of free speech. He offers advice to journalists covering the Trump administration: 

“President Donald Trump’s frothing criticisms of the news media reveal his will to stifle our free press. That’s lamentable but manageable: Journalists do very well at defending their First Amendment rights. The deeper challenge for professional journalists is the continuing, dizzying, often jarring evolution of their profession in the internet age. The Trump administration appears likely to complicate that challenge in a way that offers bold journalists an opportunity.

“One way professional political journalists have distinguished themselves from their legions of online competitors has been maintaining access to people in power. Even if the web is boundless, the White House press room remains small. President Trump, however, freezes out journalists whose coverage he doesn’t like, and he tightly controls information. In this administration, the currency of access seems due for a recession.


“Denying access to journalists is bad government practice, but professional political journalists should embrace the snub. Access to powerful officials hasn’t been great for journalism or for democracy. Too often, journalists have courted access at the expense of critical engagement. That mistake helped to bring about the greatest policy disaster of the past half century, the Iraq War.

“President Trump likes to invent his own reality. Access to shills for his fabrications can only corrode news reporting. Professional political journalists should train their gaze beyond the corridors of power to seek out, and call out, the actual consequences of the Trump administration’s policy choices. That initiative will advance both journalistic professionalism and press freedom.”

Read more “First 100 Days” messages at Election2016.wustl.edu.

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