Another idea whose time has come

May 26th, 2017

Time to end WH press briefings.

The role of press briefings is to create two complementary illusions. The first illusion is that the administration is providing new and useful information. That rarely happens. And when it does, it could have been done more easily in the form of a press release in response to a written inquiry. A written response can be faster than a press briefing because it doesn’t depend on a scheduled meeting time in the future.

The second illusion created by the press briefings is that “news” is being manufactured in that room. The reality is that artisanal “gotcha” moments are lovingly crafted by the press. That means the so-called news from press briefings is generally fake news, and that would be true no matter the administration in power.

It can be super-expensive for a news organization to do investigative journalism. It might take months to do the research and it can result in no story at all. But the gotcha questions at a press briefing are cheap, and they are the incubators of fake news that feed the media machine. That’s good for the press, but the public doesn’t need any of that, except for entertainment.

The other big reason for eliminating press briefings is the uniqueness of President Trump. No surrogate can speak for our current president and expect to stay consistent and accurate. The president’s persuasion system involves a lot of flexibility with the facts, as well as moving people’s attention and energy where he needs it. Realistically, no surrogate can hope to match what President Trump does, or even to stay consistent with it. And as long as the president is willing to do lots of on-camera interviews, the press should get plenty of easy-to-mine news right from the source. No press briefing needed.

It might be different if the press was what it claims to be: honest, impartial conveyors of information on current events. They are no such thing, and only the most obtuse of us don’t know it by now. There is no reason in the world for Trump to submit himself or any of his underlings to daily interlocution by his enemies, especially when they’re so entirely lacking in integrity, and so tireless in their dedication to undermining and crippling his Presidency by any means they can contrive. It serves no good purpose, and has the potential to do great damage instead.

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