The Monday Notice: Briefings to cease? I hope so

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I honestly don’t comprehend how people can watch the coronavirus press briefings every day from start to finish. I do watch from time to time. After all, I work in the field of journalism, and Donald Trump is the President of the United States.

For the most part, however, the briefings play out the same way. Trump steps up the podium and reads from a sheet of talking points in a monotone voice as if it’s the first time he laid eyes on the document (and according to some reporting, that’s true). He gives time to the experts to say something intelligent before getting to his favorite part: getting into pissing matches with the White House press corps.

Look, I am not going to get into a thing about the press corps vs. Trump and which side is worse. That’s like Kramer refusing to wear an AIDS ribbon while still supporting the fight against AIDS.

All I know is, I never learn anything from watching it. The one Masterclass I paid for was Bob Woodward’s, and say what you want about the man, but he’s one of the best in this business and it was the Watergate story that first got me interested in journalism. Woodward said press briefings where reporters shout questions at the president (or a mayor - he was speaking of briefings in general and not Trump) is not journalism. He said journalism is taking something and understanding it in a comprehensive way. While thinking and writing this, I found a tweet where I recorded that clip:

I’m sure many in the press corps would take exception to Woodward’s comments, but he’s not wrong. When the story becomes about one of the reporters, as is often the case, what good does that do for the public? When social media and cable news is dominated by stories of how one of the reporters bravely defied the president, battling him, and breathlessly saying, “Oh, it was such a wonderful display of journalism,” it’s easy to build an image in your head of Woodward visibly wincing.

Naturally, Trump in his bottomless pit of callowness believes the press briefings show him coming off well. Somehow, he equates ratings with performance. That’s like saying Nickelback is a great band because they managed to get millions of people to buy their shitty records.

The truth is, Trump’s getting hammered in the polls and his press briefings have no doubt contributed to the mess. Trump tweeted this over the weekend:

That’s a spin signal. Is it any surprise he says this the day after Axios reported he will cut the daily briefings? This is an old favorite from the Trump playbook. He often inflates his importance. When he doesn’t get named Time’s Person of the Year he tweets he was “asked” but refused (Time doesn’t ask). When criticized by someone he claims the person “begged” him for a position in the administration or an appointment and Trump refused. What better way to spin the reduction of coronavirus briefings than to claim he did it for the benefit of the press?

The briefings have only managed to accomplish four things:

  1. Give fact-checkers a lot of material

  2. Provide members of the press to inflate their self-importance

  3. Show just how incapable Trump is at doing his job

  4. Give fanatical Trump supporters the means to advance more of their conspiracies:

“Lunatics.” Talk about a lack of self-awareness.

In any event, I think it’s a good idea for the press briefings to come to a close as it provides the public with nothing beneficial.

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Look for a feature in next week’s Washington Examiner mag about the press’ malfeasance covering the sexual assault allegation made against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. As it stands, not a single media outlet has asked him about the allegation, allowing his campaign to call his accuser, Tara Reade, a liar in prepared statements.

I planned on going more into depth on that in this newsletter but will let that feature discuss the issue in-depth.

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Hey, so instead of more politics, here are some photos that I’ve made over the years (and a few as early as two weeks ago) that I was messing around this weekend. Enjoy!