Bob Franken


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Enough is enough. The time has come for the media to reclaim our role and aggressively cover the Trump administration without fear. We must disregard the constant bullying by him and his accessories after the “alternative facts;” aka flunkies, aka stooges. You expected subtlety? The time for that is long gone.
The new stooge on the block is Bill Shine, forced out as a top dog at Fox News after lawsuits charged him with enabling all of Roger Ailes’ alleged sexual outrages. That would immediately endear him to Donald Trump, and sure enough, now he’s the new White House Communications Director, where he’s taken his obvious talent for managing up by becoming the Don’s latest enforcer. Until Shine, the president’s desire to browbeat those who cover the White House was softened by cooler heads. But now that Shine is on the case, the crackdown has intensified.
The latest victim is CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins. After POTUS raged at Collins’ routinely impertinent questions at a photo-op, Shine banned her from covering an open press event later in the day. That followed his chewing her out in his office. Apparently, Collins handled the meeting in a classy way, which means she’s way more mature than I am (it’s difficult not to be). Suffice it to say, if Shine had done the same with me, it would have been a short meeting.

Once again, the various news organizations screamed bloody murder at this latest Trump media thuggery, but this is far beyond the usual wimpy statements of solidarity. It’s time for those who cover this gang to take stronger action. After a bit of thought, I have some suggestions:
— The entire press corps needs to pull out: That’s right, physically abandon the White House. Do the journalistic job of holding the administration accountable from their bureaus and offices. Proximity gains them nothing, particularly since, as we’ve witnessed, reporters are expected to grovel. Use the telephone and computer to properly report on the Trump mob. All that’s sacrificed is the White House backdrop in the TV live shots. Station a camera there to record POTUS events and maybe an embedded reporter to fire questions, As for the daily briefings, they are are total waste of time, except for those reporters who like to hot dog on TV. The time has come to bail out en masse.
— No more live coverage of Trump events: Obviously there would be exceptions, such as when he does stuff that’simportant. When he gives away the national interest to the Vladimir Putins and Kim Jong Uns of this world, take it live, by all means, but not the staged events and political rallies. Sure, show them in their entirety, but only on a tape-delayed basis, after the networks have had a chance to identify all his lies and exaggerations, and as he spouts them, present the facts on the screen’s lower-third. Supplement that with experts to discuss factual discrepancies.
— Label his tweets as the dangerous nonsense when they are: Or ignore them as superficial childish tantrums when they are that.
— PTake criminal legal action against those who impede Trump coverage: If the local authorities won’t cooperate, press federal charges against them.
— Also file criminally against the president if he incites someone to do violence against reporters: True, those accusations cannot be prosecuted while he’s in office, but that won’t be forever. In addition, he can be sued. We need to take full advantage of the lawful options.
I realize that each of these bullet points might be shot down as unworkable or need to be revised, but some variation definitely would be better than the tepid response we’ve seen thus far. Otherwise, these assaults against the public’s need to know will get worse. Actually, it does every day. Now the boss man is tweeting that the press is “unpatriotic” and endangering “the lives of many.” The only patriotic thing for journalists to do is to get more aggressive with him and his fellow truth molesters. Democracy can survive only with robust media. Neutered news inevitably leads to autocracy.

© 2018 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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