White House press corps needs to shake itself up

White House briefing room may be lonely

As President-elect Trump fills out his Cabinet, some of whom are giving heartburn to many (former neurosurgeon Ben Carson at HUD?), we haven’t heard much yet about his plans for the White House press corps or who will be his press secretary.

It’s hard to imagine we won’t be seeing changes in how Trump deals with the media from the way they’ve been treated in the past. It’s been six months since he’s held a press conference which is sign enough that he doesn’t see why he needs to do them. So we likely can expect even fewer of them than his predecessor held. His administration still needs to be objectively covered, though.

Other changes, I’m guessing, are likely in the James Brady Briefing Room at the White House.

There are signs he wants to shake up even on who sits where (typically the networks and wires are in the front row, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal in the second row and so on. I’m guessing the briefing room will be a less populated place on a daily basis. This is far from a concern for most Americans who consider the press a pampered bunch to begin with. But it does affect how we will get news about what’s really going on with our government.

We know what Trump thinks of the mainstream media (dishonest!) so he could care less how he treats them. He has his many millions of Twitter followers he can talk to directly. And, who need a daily briefing anyway, I imagine he’s thinking. “I can go over their heads and not be knocked off stride by their pesky, silly questions. Besides, the American people trust the media less than they trust me!”

While Trump figures out his plans, and who his press secretary will be (I’m still guessing Sean Spicer), the media ought to be figuring out how they are going to cover Trump. They will not be fed stories by his press office or in briefings, as they sometimes have been in the past, and the likelihood of getting good leaks from his White House are small givien his methods, his strategy of changing his mind and, sometimes, lying and confidentiality agreements (if a President can hold someone to one of those).

But editors and producers around the country, and world, should be figuring out new ways to cover his presidency. While the Cabinet has been more and more marginalized over the years, and the White House has assumed more control over policy than ever before — and that’s before Trump — maybe they’ll focus more attention on those Cabinet departments, which would be a good thing. Those department still do the heavy lifting on making and enforcing policy, even if the maknig of policy is now more influenced at the White House. That’s where they may be able to ferret out what’s really going on. Some of those will be headed by typical politicians (a former governor, former congressmen, former Senate candidate) who are more likely to act as in the past than in the current Trump Method — at least for a while.

Trump and his appointees are in for an awakening when it comes to dealing with the career civil serice. These are dedicated men and women who are there, through administrations, and without whom political folks could not run the government. It is not a corporate environemnt where the CEO (Trump or the cabinet member) walks in, gives an order and it’s followed or you’re fired. Government doesn’t, and shouldn’t, run that way.

White House reporters will be forced to cultivate a wider range of sources, another good thing. Media outlets maybe ought to have a Fake News Beat, where someone is monitoring those fake news sites regularly because much of that fake news is likely to be showing up in the White House and other places in the government and someone has to jump on that immediately to try to stop it from being perceived as real in this post-truth world. Otherwise we will see more armed people walking into pizza joints looking for a child sex ring managed by Hillary Clinton.

Trump was elected to shake things up. He’s doing that so far through his Cabinet choices (the ExxonMobile CEO as secretary of state; a company man at the head of Labor; and others) and his approach. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. DC has been stagnant for many years now and could use a little shaking.

And the media needs to shake things up too.

They adapted during the campaign to begin to highlight false news or untrue statements uttered by Trump or, less so, by Hillary Clinton, and call him on it. Not that it stopped him either from winning or from spreading phony news. But at least the public had the truth available to them, in real time.

The media now needs to adapt — and I mean before his Administration takes office — as to how they will cover a president who only wants fawning coverage. Of course, all presidents want fawning followers and media, but that’s not the media’s role in our society. If the media doesn’t adjust, they will look like the dishonest people he claims they are — whining about being treated differently than in the past. And Trump will leverage that whining to his benefit.

Trust me, ladies and gentlemen, you’re going to be treated differently. Plan on it. And I mean plan.

I’m assuming planning is going on at the major news outlets as we speak. But I stopped ASSuming a long time ago.

Former deputy White House press secretary (Reagan and Bush 41) and former head of communications at Republican Natl Committee. My blog: bjaycooper.com.

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