Yesterday, Trump decided that he has had enough of the “negative coverage” about his campaign. In response, he banished Washington Post in addition to others from access to his campaign. It has not been any secret that Trump has a rocky relationship with the media both liberally biased and conservatively biased. I’m only going to briefly mention the merits (or lack thereof) of his decision here and concentrate on the underlying problem.
I’ve often wondered why politicians in the national spotlight put up with so-called news agencies that are clearly biased against them. Think about it, why is Obama willing to be interviewed by Fox when he knows that whatever he says will be spun into something “negative” about him. Why would any conservative be willing to be interviewed by MSNBC for the same reason?
For the most part, politicians understand that there is a concept enshrined in the Constitution. That concept is the freedom of the press. While it may be infuriating to have these so-called news agencies engage in “negative coverage,” these politicians know that they should tolerate them to honor the spirit of the Constitution… or at least give the impression of it.
In 2012, there were reports that both the Obama and Romney campaigns were requiring that the media get approval for the quotes they used (link 1) (link 2). There was a veiled threat that if reporters did not get this approval, they would be barred from access to the campaigns (sound familiar?). I think there is no doubt that Trump has adopted this policy (and has actually went through with this threat). It would not be too far of a stretch to think that Clinton has adopted the policy as well.
This policy is a problem for one main reason; it is an intrusion upon the free and independent press. The campaigns are essentially saying that if the news agencies do not report what they want reported, their agency will be placed at a disadvantage; allowing other agencies that tow their party line to report on events earlier. Essentially, this is what happened with Washington Post. They chose to report on quotes made by Trump that were not approved by the campaign and thus have been banished from access.
I am not saying that Trump does not have the right to do so. On the other hand, he is not honoring the spirit of the Constitution by using access to his campaign to coerce Washington Post and others into coverage that he approves. These events are even more troubling given the fact that he has threatened to use libel laws against the media if elected. If we cannot trust a politician to honor the Constitution in regards to the first amendment, how are we to trust him or her with our other rights?