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article imageOp-Ed: Sean Spicer's Skype journalists — democracy or media death?

By Jack Derricourt     Jan 24, 2017 in Politics
This week, amid many controversial, and often adversarial, moments, Trump’s new press secretary Sean Spicer unveiled plans to allow journalists ‘Skype seats’ at daily press briefings.
Such an idea could be a revolutionary granting of access to small media publications — or it could be an enticing way for the new administration to limit media access to the White House.
There has been a lot of chatter about the Trump administration’s young, and already fraught, relationship with the press. Rumours abound, but the aggression towards the press on the campaign trail has obviously persisted into the White House.
People had a lot of problems with the press during the election, but one thing is absolutely clear: when the Republican party controls every level of the federal government, American journalists need to be able to do their job better in order to be of value to their society. After all the criticism of bias and blindness towards to this or that candidate or issue has been met, a healthy democratic society is based in a great part upon a free and open media.
Two-tier press system/ more divide and conquer?
There are dangers embedded in Spicer's policy of using journalists connected via Skype. By allowing for the physical removal of reporters from the public space that is the press room, and their replacement with easily manipulated digital feeds, you place a great deal of control in the hands of the executive branch. Without being physically present in the press room, it becomes harder to have your questions heard, for your presence to demand any kind of response. It’s easier to ignore a face on a screen than it is a physically present human being.
Allow me to suggest a not entirely unrealistic situation: a news agency publishes a story that the President and his staff disagree with or reject outright. They downgrade the reporter from having a physical seat in the press room to a digital Skype seat. That news organization now has less of a hand in the day-to-day affairs of the press briefings.
Again, this is something to be wary of, not an eventuality. But in a world where CNN is denounced as ‘fake news’ in one breath, and hate-mongering Breitbart (sitting in a front row seat at the U.S. media event of the season) is privileged with a question the next, and the flat-out lies of The Gateway Pundit are given access to the White House on the level of a legitimate press organization, are such divide and conquer methods for the media so hard to believe?
Democratic push of technology
However, just because this is coming from Sean Spicer, official enemy of all things Dippin' Dots ice cream, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad thing. As Politico reports, Chuck Todd believes that Skype seats could benefit regional publications that cannot afford beat reporters in the Washington Press pool. It's easy to see Todd's point. If this technology is embraced responsibly, with attention paid to continuing access to the White House and freedom of the press, this could be a massive opening up of the White House briefings to small publications that are struggling with their coverage.
If the Skype seats go ahead, it appears to be unprecedented. This could open up, or close down, access to the executive levels of government the world over, and very rapidly at that.
By the way, if you want to send Dippin' Dots directly to Sean Spicer, feel free to use this new site.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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