Acosta press pass returned but the threat to journalism continues


Courtesy of Vox

On Wednesday, Nov. 7, CNN reporter Jim Acosta and President Donald Trump clashed during a press briefing.

Last month during a White House press briefing on Nov. 7, Jim Acosta, CNN Chief White House Correspondent, questioned President Donald Trump about his characterization of the migrant “caravan” and also about possible indictments from the Russian investigation. Hours later as Acosta went back to the White House to work on a different story, he was told by a secret service agent that his “hard pass,” what allows him into press conferences, was being revoked temporarily.

Acosta, who also covered the Obama administration, has had his press credentials for five years. In a video of the conflict between Acosta and Trump, an intern tried to take the microphone from Acosta’s hand while he resisted.

Trump has not been shy in showing his dislike of CNN and even Acosta himself. During the first press conference after the 2016 election, then President-Elect Trump got into a conflict with Acosta after insulting CNN and not answering his question.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders initially said that the press-pass suspension came after Acosta placed his hands on the intern, even tweeting a video of the “incident.” However many believed that the video was altered to make Acosta look more aggressive in his interaction with the intern. Sanders later changed the reason for the revocation saying it was because he attempted to “monopolize the floor.”

U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly, a Trump appointee, on Nov. 16, issued a temporary 14-day restraining order forcing the White House to give Acosta his pass back. Judge Kelly said that Acosta’s right to due process was ignored by the White House and that the decision-making process was unclear. CNN dropped the lawsuit against the White House on Nov. 19 after Acosta’s pass was fully restored, conditioned on abiding by new presidential briefing rules which would include only asking one question. Even Fox News, which often sides with the Trump administration, and other news outlets supported CNN’s lawsuit.

Courtesy of The Atlantic
U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly temporarily restored Jim Acosta’s press credentials on Nov. 16.

“I think [getting his pass back was] a good thing because we do have a right to free press, and [Acosta] getting his pass taken away is an example of [not] following that amendment,” said Maryam Siddiqui, junior.

Many people may believe that this story isn’t a big deal now that the issue has been resolved as Acosta got his press pass back and the most recent press conference seemed to go peacefully. However, there are bigger implications in the way that President Trump and his administration dealt with this situation.

Part of the problem is that the process in which Acosta had his pass taken away is indicative of how the administration often behaves. By not letting CNN or Acosta know about his pass revocation, the White House was showing that it does not care to follow procedural guidelines. This casual ignorance of rules lets news organizations know that the White House will do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, as no one within the administration seemed to question the legality of taking Acosta’s pass away, which was clear in Judge Kelly’s temporary order.

I can understand why some people may believe that Acosta’s pass was rightfully taken away. He and Trump weren’t respectful or courteous to one another during the press conference. They both were trying to get the upper hand in the questioning and were interrupting each other. Trump insulted Acosta calling him a “rude, terrible person,” while Acosta wouldn’t give up the microphone after he was repeatedly told to put it down.

So, there are faults on both sides, however, that doesn’t excuse the administration from taking away his press-pass mere hours later without even telling him before coming to do his job that it was happening. They have a bit of discretion and have the power to run conferences in whatever fashion they want, with some boundaries of course. But they clearly didn’t give Acosta a fair process when they revoked his pass.

But an even larger problem is that the incident is one of the many ways in which the administration is undermining the credibility of the press.

On the one hand, the administration is labeling credible journalism as fake news. This current administration has made it no secret that they don’t like or respect the news, often calling it“fake news.” They have outright lied in most instances whether that is through Huckabee Sanders or from Trump’s twitter account. By calling all news that doesn’t glorify the administration fake news, Trump is facilitating an American culture in which we can’t trust our own government or each other. This front against the media is also spurring on a more divisive culture within our society, which is split already.

As a high school journalist, it is alarming that this kind of rhetoric is being advertised to millions across the globe. To smear credible news organizations as spreading lies is extremely dangerous to the safety of democracy. Spreading beliefs that the news is “fake” will undermine the actual good work that most journalists are doing, whose reporting has taken down many institutions and exposed millions to lies.

By discrediting reputable newspapers Trump is leading a large number of people to be uninformed on very important issues. He is influencing voters to only listen to his word, which is a dangerous thing to do.

“Our lives and our nation are influenced to a significant degree by the work of America’s news outlets-even our lives as high school students,” said Lars Lonnroth, senior managing editor of breaking news and multimedia coverage at the Lions Newspaper. “It should be of incredible importance to all American citizens that our nation’s press is allowed to be vibrant and free because that’s what makes our nation different than places like Russia and North Korea.”

Dictators are famous for always getting rid of the free press in one way, shape or form. Leaders know that without the news, people would not be informed, and information is powerful. I am not saying our country is a dictatorship, but disregarding credible news is taking one step away from democracy.

“Obviously it’s unfortunate, [however] CNN still [had] access to the White House so [it was] not likely to impede the network’s ability to report on the news,” said Pam Lannom, co-owner and editor of The Hinsdalean. “But I think you get on a slippery slope when you do something like this.”

The administration has also been supporting misleading and inaccurate news publications. Trump has found solace within Fox News, particularly the talk program Fox and Friends. These programs are spreading misleading information to millions of their viewers and by continually supporting Trump, they are not allowing for an open discussion with both sides of the aisle.

Those that read these publications will not know what is actually going on within the country and will only read what that organization is willing to write about. A uniformed public will make bad decisions and won’t be in touch with actual problems that need to be solved. The government should not be trying to sway what we should or should not read. Everyone’s news consumption is different and individual and that is up to them. No outside force, especially the government, should be purposefully excluding certain news from people as that is not up to them to decide what is right to read.  

“I think one of the most dangerous things that the president has done is to put forward this idea of fake news and his attempts to undermine the media and the suggestion that an individual inside the administration, mainly himself, is the best person to report on the activities of that administration,” Lannom said.

That is a mainstay of the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from “abridging the freedom… of the press.”

“In order for journalists to be able to do their jobs, they need to have the ability to ask the tough questions of those in power without the fear of retribution and retaliation,” Lonnroth said. “If the administration permanently revoked Acosta’s press pass because of his critical questioning, the White House would be sending a strong message to both networks and individual journalists to either censor their coverage or be unable to cover the most powerful and important person in the free world.”

The news was created for a reason, to inform people about what was going on and eventually has evolved into another checks and balance method holding the government accountable. Journalists have more of a connection with the regular person than any government official, so they try to cover stories that would most benefit Americans.

“I hope that people are intelligent enough to see through his claims about the media and to look at the reporting and look at the job that individual newspapers and broadcast outlets are doing [and to] evaluate what they’re reading and make their own decisions about whether they think they are getting good info or not,” Lannom said. “And as members of the press, I think we all have an obligation to always do the best we can to make sure we are putting forward the truth to our best ability to ascertain it.”

There are always clashes between the news and governments but the current administration’s failure to respect the news will hurt everyone in the future. If they got rid of Acosta’s pass, what’s to say they won’t get rid of others in the future, or even go further by banning certain networks from press conferences?