Friday, September 6, 2019

The Press

Only the Press Could Get Away With This
Excerpt: Let’s say you are a salesman for a major company and while attending an industry conference, you begin screaming, cursing and threatening one of the hosts—in public. Or, let’s say you are a manager for a major company and you make up a story about how a competitor secured a bank loan and you spread that baseless rumor throughout the industry. Or, let’s say you are a secretary for a major company and you scour the social media page of a rival in the secretarial pool, edited one of her dated posts to make it sound much worse than it actually was, and email-blasted it to the entire company in an effort to get her fired. Or, let’s say you are the chairman of the board of a major company and you direct your underlings to lie to customers and shareholders for three years about something that never happened. See where this is going? In any other professional sector outside of the news media, those kinds of activities would amount to fireable offenses. No constitutional protections would apply; no activist groups would rally to your defense; no C-Suite executive would issue a statement in support of your bad behavior; no colleagues would plead your case; no judge would demand that your job be reinstated. You would be standing in the unemployment line. Justifiably. [Unfortunately, this conduct goes a long way back, at least to Sam Donaldson in the early 1970s, and perhaps farther, but I don’t recall seeing it. It is even more unfortunate that a court has chosen to invent a “right” for a reporter to be given access to a private meeting in a residence, even if that residence is merely the home of the President of the United States. As I see it, a reporter may well have a right to “cover the news,” but that means to write or report on it; he DOESN’T have a right to demand access to anyone who doesn’t want to see him. Not even the smallest town’s dog catcher is REQUIRED to allow himself/herself to be interviewed, absent any local laws to the contrary. The current White House seems to have temporarily solved the grand-standing problem of reporters by discontinuing most of the previously regular briefings. I would go farther. First, I would send most regular and breaking “news” directly to the media’s main office. That cuts the reporter out of the loop entirely and gets the info to their HQ faster. No doubt this will also save the media company money since they no longer need to pay big bucks to the grand-standing on-air reporter. Second, for more in-depth occasions, I would grant interviews with one or two named reporters known to be both fair and respectful, or at least polite. That might even work with a small group of known reporters who would be invited by name, not by their media organization. There would no longer be a need for special areas for “the press,” and especially not set-aside areas for “major media.” Third, since the Press Officer would now be the only contact for the press, the job would be far more concentrated on getting the wording of releases exactly the way we wanted them the first time Fourth, there needs to be a WRITTEN code of conduct and decorum for the correspondents or reporters allowed on-site, enforceable by their written agreement to abide by it on pain of being excluded in the future if they transgress. That ought to prevent many of the problems. Of course, it won’t do anything about what opposing politicians say to change the emphasis or meaning of written statements, and they’ll still lie about what the whole thing means. That’s just democracy at work.  Ron P.]

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