How the media lost the first President-Elect Trump press conference

You can’t blame Trump.

Well, you can, but it misses the point. Tuesday’s press conference was a disaster because the media have failed to adapt to the new realities of a Trump presidency.

President-elect Donald Trump approached the press conference as he approaches everything: as a competition. He treated the conference like a debate. He was determined to win, and he did.

Trump had been under fire for an intelligence report leaked to news outlets. CNN was early to break the news, and it was followed by just about every major news outlet. BuzzFeed was one of the few outlets to actually post the report, with all the salacious and unverified details of Trump’s fetish-filled romp in Russia.

During the press conference, Trump refused to take questions from CNN, calling them “fake news,” and saying their reporter was rude for insisting on asking a question.

CNN wasn’t the only loser of the press conference. The American people lost big time. After all, you journalists are our representatives. You are my proxy in that room, asking questions in my best interests, and you failed miserably.

When Trump refused to answer CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s questions, and moved on to another reporter, that reporter should have said, “I pass on my question so that Jim Acostas can ask his question.” The next reporter chosen after that should have said, “I pass on my question so that Jim Acostas can ask his question.”

Solidarity. It’s the only way to keep the pressure on the president elect and ensure that protocols of decency find their way into this essential public service. Members of the media must work together.

If a reporter asks a question that Trump dodges, the next reporter must ask the question again. And again. All day long.

Then there’s an issue of instant fact checking. Trump spews BS at alarming rate. Case in point:

“You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, okay? They’re the only ones,” Trump said.

Where was a reporter with the facts? You have editors and producers sending you text messages, don’t you? Why didn’t we hear this?

“Actually, Mr. Trump, studies show that at least 60% of Americans do want you to show your tax returns, and if citizens knew more about issues of conflict of interest, that number would be 100%.”

If reporters work together and get tough, insisting on the truth and then insisting again, Trump may decide that press conferences aren’t much fun anymore. He may retreat back to his Twitter feed.

That would be horrible, but at least the press would have made the attempt at being a functioning Fourth Estate. American citizens deserve at least that much.

(Warren Epstein was a longtime journalist and media columnist for The Gazette in Colorado Springs and The Tampa Tribune.)

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