July 17, 2018
Cover the White House? This professor wishes journalists would prefer not to.
by Francesca Capossela
Late last month, White House Press Secretary Sarah Hucakbee Sanders was asked to leave a small restaurant in Lexington, Virginia by the owner. “This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals,” Stephanie Wilkinson told the Washington Post. The event caused immediate mayhem—including the harassment of an LA-based publishing house that had nothing to do with the incident—and raised questions about whether refusing to serve a customer on political grounds is ever acceptable, and under what circumstances.
But, most importantly, it became symbolic of an increasingly urgent question: how can anyone stand up to an administration that flirts regularly with fascism?
As the inhumanity of ICE and Trump’s immigration policies has come to light, the seeming incongruity between many citizens’ everyday existences and the dehumanizing horrors reported in the news each hour is paralyzing. Helplessness leads to apathy, which leads to helplessness.
Wilkinson’s firm-but-mild resistance suggests another strategy: non-compliance. And who should be the first to stop complying with this administration? The industry that feeds off of Trump’s scandals, the industry upon which almost every American is dependent for knowledge, truth, and expertise: journalism.
At least, that is the opinion of NYU professor Jay Rosen, who writes for the blog PressThink. He has, in fact, been making this argument ever since Trump’s inauguration, suggesting that media outlets send only their interns to press conferences at the White House, so as to strongly convey that they will not “lend talent or prestige to it.”
For Rosen, not complying with the president could mean declining to show video clips of him blatantly lying, refusing to print the misinformation he spews, denying a platform to surrogates like Kellyanne Conway.
By catering to a corrupt administration, the press allows the spread of misinformation, condones apathy, and chooses clicks over facts. One by one, individuals who legitimize the Trump presidency have to stop doing so, prioritizing the fate of the US over a buzzworthy headline or a great soundbite.
Francesca Capossela is an intern at Melville House.