In his own way, Trump has set us free. Reporters must treat Inauguration Day as a kind of Liberation Day to explore news outside the usual Washington circles. He has been explicit in his disdain for the press and his dislike for press conferences, prickly to the nth degree about being challenged and known for his vindictive way with those who cross him. So, forget about the White House press room. It’s time to circle behind enemy lines.
On the one hand, I think Shafer is right. Donald Trump’s adversarial attitude, like Richard Nixon’s (a president Shafer refers to later in his column), should force major news organizations to turn to old-fashioned shoe leather instead of taking handouts from D.C. panjandrums. (I threw that word in there for my old copy editors.) Some of them, most likely Marty Baron’s Washington Post, will probably do some great work. (The Post’s David Fahrenthold already is.)
But the cable news networks? We shall see.
CNN reportedly made $1 billion in profit in 2016. I’m not sure the powers that be at Time Warner or News Corp. or pick your large multimedia conglomerate will want to take a big hit to their bottom line, especially if they’re being hounded on social media. (Hell, William Paley wasn’t a big fan of what Walter Cronkite said about Watergate in late ’72. After all, he had CBS and its affiliates to look out for.)
Of course, Trump will make for good television. And isn’t that what it’s all about?