Earlier today Jen Psaki, the new White House press secretary, held her first session and began with this: “I have deep respect for the role of a free and independent press in our democracy and for the role all of you play.”
She then answered questions, and promised another briefing for tomorrow.
I’m not sure how much this stuff resonates for those of you who haven’t worked in media, but for me—well, it’s an enormous relief.
Over the past four years, Donald Trump and his cold crush crew devoted themselves to not merely spreading phony information, and not only belittling, demeaning and endangering members of the press, but creating this movement around the idea of #Fakenews. And while, on the surface, one might ask, “Well, isn’t pointing out phony reporting a good thing?—that’s never what #Fakenews was about.
Nope, #Fakenews was the Trumpian firing squad at any information (true or false) that made the president look bad. So if a report was 100 percent spot-on, but Trump didn’t like it—#Fakenews. And if members of the media showed up at, say, a rally, and Trump wanted red meat, he’d snarl, “#Fakenews!” and have his followers hiss and boo and, on occasion, throw elbows. Before long, Trump’s mindless slaves echoed “Fake news! Fake news! Fake news!” in a creepy, straight-out-of-a-horror-flick sorta way. And when thousands of goons stormed the U.S. Capitol two Wednesdays back, they made certain to bash camera equipment and scribble MURDER THE MEDIA on a wall.
So, yeah, as a veteran reporter, hearing Jen Psaki express openness and compassion toward the working press was extraordinarily meaningful. Hopefully, over time, even Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters will see that not all news is #Fakenews.
And that a valued press is the cornerstone of a functioning democracy.