White House correspondents upset with the Trump administration’s shakeup of the pecking order in the briefing room are starting to see reporters from conservative outlets as an “existential threat,” according to the March issue of The New Yorker.
“Until recently, the more established White House correspondents have regarded floaters as a harmless distraction—the equivalent of letting a batboy sit in the dugout,” Andrew Marantz writes in The New Yorker, referring to reporters from outlets more or less ignored by prior administrations. “Now they are starting to see the floaters as an existential threat.”
Press Secretary Sean Spicer has made a point of highlighting conservative and outsider outlets in his briefings, including The New York Post and The Daily Caller, often giving them the first question rather than mainstream outlets such as The Associated Press accustomed to getting priority. The ongoing nature of the shakeup is getting to some of the White House reporters, who perhaps thought things would return to “normal” after Spicer finished making a political point.
“Historically, the way the briefing room has been organized is, the closer you are, the farther you’ve come,” CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett told The New Yorker. “And the person at the podium has tended to recognize that.”
Ignoring the press corps’ record of asking fawning questions during eight years of President Obama, Garrett adds that more experienced reporters ask better questions and deserve to be called on first. “We’re engaged in a grand experiment,” he said of the Trump administration’s decision to give other outlets more questions.
“I don’t mind them bringing in conservative voices that they feel have been underrepresented,” an unnamed D.C. reporter adds in the piece. “Personally, I don’t even mind them fucking with the front-row guys, the Jonathan Karls of the world. Those guys are a smug little cartel, and it’s fun to watch them squirm, at least for a little while. But at what point does it start to delegitimize the whole idea of what happens in that room? When does it cross the line into pure trolling?”
The shakeup has of course pleased many media critics and Trump supporters, who see nothing wrong with taking the established press corps down a peg or two, and is a matter of indifference to many others who see it as petty squabbling.
One TV correspondent, however — also unnamed — tried to combat that perspective, arguing it’s important to have an established and secure order so that the right questions get answered and the press looks dignified.
“It’s also about maintaining a sense of predictability, a sense that eventually the substantive questions will be answered,” the correspondent told The New Yorker. “Throwing that into chaos — ‘Maybe you’ll get a question, if you shout loud enough, who knows?’ — makes everyone desperate and competitive and makes us look like a bunch of braying jackals. Which I don’t think is an accident.”
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