Press worries over President-elect Trump

The relationship between Donald Trump and the news media is as acrimonious as ever following his victory in Tuesday’s presidential election.

Members of the press complain that Trump isn’t adequately informing the media about his decisions as president-elect, calling it a violation of practices meant to ensure access to and transparency around the leader of the free world.

The tensions come after a bitter campaign, in which Trump used the press as a foil.

{mosads}The Republican nominee frequently lambasted the news media as “dishonest” during his rallies, and crowds would chant slogans such as “CNN sucks” and hurl invective at members of his traveling press corps. 

Trump continued the theme late Thursday night, when he took to Twitter to blame the media for fueling nationwide protests against his election as president. He walked back his comment in a subsequent tweet. 

Here are some of the points of contention: 

Press Pool

Trump did not allow reporters to travel with him to Washington on Thursday for meetings with President Obama and leaders in Congress.

His team never allowed a so-called “pool” of reporters and photographers to travel on his plane during the campaign. 

Every modern president and president-elect has traveled with a pool, but news organizations have thus far failed to convince Trump’s advisers to immediately adopt the practice. 

The White House, and not Trump’s team, made arrangements to have a pool of journalists cover the president-elect’s meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office. 

Press pools are designed to allow the public to have eyes on the nation’s leader at all times.

Much of the time, the updates can be mundane. Some journalists mocked the incessant pool reports about Obama’s trips to the gym as president-elect in 2008 or complained information about his meetings was too vague. 

“Having a pool of reporters follow you around everywhere you go is inconvenient, occasionally annoying, and takes a long time to get used to,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday. “But it serves an important purpose.”

That’s especially true in times of crisis.

Journalists were on hand at a Florida school to witness George W. Bush receive the news about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, then travel around the country with him on Air Force One in the uncertain hours afterward. The reporters who broke the news of the Kennedy assassination were members of the pool traveling in the presidential motorcade. 

“This decision could leave Americans blind about his whereabouts and well-being in the event of a national crisis,” White House Correspondents Association President Jeff Mason said in a statement Thursday.

Spokesperson Hope Hicks responded, “we fully expect to operate a traditional pool and look forward to implementing our plans in the near future.”

Daily schedules 

The Trump team has not provided a daily schedule of its activities, unlike the White House and previous presidential transitions.

A group of journalists covering Trump at his Manhattan high-rise Friday morning were left wondering what exactly the president-elect was doing as he made important decisions about his future administration. 

The president-elect stayed behind closed doors and the only information reporters had to go on was a tweet. 

“Busy day planned in New York,” the president-elect wrote. “Will soon be making some very important decisions on the people who will be running our government.”

Reporters watched as top aides and associates arrived at Trump Tower, including Trump campaign chairman Steve Bannon, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. 

Trump’s team later released a statement announcing a major shakeup of his transition team. Giuliani was the only one to speak to reporters about the decision. 

“I can see already how he is going to be a great president and I’m glad I can play a small role,” he said. 

News conferences and briefings

The early days of a presidential transition can be messy and disorganized, but president-elects and their top advisers have typically held media briefings anyway. 

Obama held his first press conference as president-elect on Nov. 7, 2008, the Friday after Election Day. George W. Bush went before reporters two days after Al Gore conceded the race in mid-December. 

Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said he held his first press briefing three days after that on Dec. 18, 2000. 

By contrast, Trump last held a news conference on July 27. His team has not announced plans for his next one. 

He gave his first post-election interview on Friday to the Wall Street Journal. 

Foreign leader calls 

Trump’s transition team has not announced phone calls with foreign leaders, leaving that task to overseas governments.

The Russian government declared that President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to Trump congratulating him on his election. The British press reported Trump spoke to nine other world leaders before phoning U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May. 

The White House typically announces the president’s calls with foreign leaders, in part to ensure the U.S. government’s interests are represented in news accounts of the conversations.

It also allows the public to have a full accounting of the president’s conversations with overseas leaders.

Obama’s transition team issued press releases about his calls with foreign leaders beginning just days after the 2008 election, albeit with scant descriptions of the conversations. 

The press may not find a ton of sympathy in the public for its complaints.

Only three in ten Americans say they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media, according to a Gallup poll in September. The portion of Republicans who trust the media plummeted from 32 percent last year to 14 percent. 

News organizations are taking a beating in the aftermath of the election, accused of inaccurately predicting Hillary Clinton, and not Trump, would win. 

That means Trump could have little incentive to overhaul its press strategy. 

But experts on presidential transitions say there are pitfalls to that approach.  

“If they’re not thinking about how they relate to the media and what the public image is of the Trump transition, that’s potentially a costly mistake,” said John Burke, a University of Vermont professor who has authored two books on presidential transitions. 

“This is a crucial period when the candidate has got to re-introduce themselves, not as a candidate but as the president,” he said. “That involves a communications effort and a communications strategy to do that.”

Burke said it’s still too early to tell how the transition team will ultimately deal with the media. 

Amid Friday’s shakeup, there were signs of an organization coming together. Campaign spokesman Jason Miller was named communications director of the transition and Hicks was tapped as national press secretary. 

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