By Zachary Blevins
The First Amendment is oftentimes misinterpreted, misused, and mistaken for what it actually does. The five main pillars (freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition) apparently aren’t widely known by the American public; according to the Newseum, 20% of Americans can name the five members of the Simpsons family and only 3% can name the five pillars of the First Amendment.
When I visited the Newseum, I noticed a display of recent newspapers from various publications around the world. A number of these featured a story about President-elect Trump, as I would have expected, and I imagine almost every single one featured Trump on Inauguration Day. Since the Inauguration Parade route passed right by the Newseum on Pennsylvania Ave, this left me wondering: what does the First Amendment look like under a Trump administration?
With such negative perceptions of media swirling around the country, the media is in a precarious position in which mistakes needs to be avoided and credibility needs to be regained. However, with the validity of the release of the Trump documents by Buzzfeed unverified, the media is not progressing on this issue. And, especially while under a microscope, a single unethical media organization reflects poorly on all of media. That’s why it’s more important than ever for media organizations to keep each other accountable and defend one another when quality work is being done.
This isn’t to say each news station needs to run exactly the same as each other, because different angles and perspectives create a stronger understanding for the public. However, for media to reduce the scrutiny against it, the media has to reestablish itself as a necessary component to a functioning society and make it extremely difficult for a Trump administration to be able to take any action against the media as a whole.
Thus far, Trump does not have a strong track record on restraining himself from publicly denouncing people that negatively impact his image. (See: John Lewis) In fear of a more authoritarian approach to running DC, the freedom of the press acts as a blockade to uphold accountability and honesty. There are certainly instances where the ability to control the press would be favorable to Trump. Thus, the protection of that freedom needs to be a priority.
There has also been much discussion within the Trump administration about moving the White House Press Corps. to outside of the Brady Press Room. Traditionally, the location of the Brady Press Room in the White House has been an act of accountability, where the press is able to have stronger access to the executive branch; however, as many journalists expressed during the Obama administration, that access may not be as strong or useful in practice. So, the question becomes whether the relocation is harmful to accountability or the location is a practical one.
As Professor Julia Azari, Marquette University, suggested, it may be best to just keep them where they are at, because there isn’t a logical replacement for the area in the White House. Granted, it’s not a large area for the press, but the White House and the connecting office buildings have housed the needs of the President adequately in the past. Unless the Trump administration is expecting to add a significant number of new media organizations to the White House Press Corps., the move is unnecessary and erodes the importance of accountability in the Trump administration.
It’s now been a full day into President Trump’s administration. With Inaugural festivities, the President and the media have not had much substance to work with. Nevertheless, the future of the relationship between the Trump administration and the media is a shaky one, and only time will tell how these two entities will work off one another.