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The best people I’ve ever worked with in the big world of politics and business played a team sport – and usually it is football.
I say this understanding my bias as I played and coached the sport but it is true. One of the best things I learned playing football is to be part of something larger than yourself. You can be the best quarterback or running back on the planet, but without everyone doing their job, you go nowhere.
That certainly translates well in the business world when everyone needs to know their role and execute it well so the team can succeed.
However, it is more problematic to put that attitude into play in the competitive world of journalism. Reporters, editors and columnists all want to be first with the news. The competitive spirit drives us all to get the story and that often divides us, rarely does it unite us.
But we face a formidable challenge these days from covering the president to covering dystopian-minded government officials at the federal, state and local level who employ tactics similar to our president in dividing, conquering, bullying and silencing the press.
At least in some cases, I’m happy to say, the press has been up to the challenge.
Inside the White House, I’ve noticed in the last few months a consistent and growing effort to back one another up on questions regarding the same subject.
In some cases reporters, including myself, have demurred to colleagues in order for questions to get asked. While the president has painted and tainted us as disgusting, rude and “The enemy of the people,” I’ve seen everyone in the White House press briefing room work hard to get along with one another and assist each other when it is appropriate in order to get questions answered and issues addressed.
Some of the younger reporters do not know this is not how any other presidential administration operated. They only have the dysfunction of the current administration to use as a yardstick for standard operating procedures.
With that said, and before anyone turns this into a Cartman-hated “Hippie Circle,” you will never see reporters joining hands, turning our backs on the White House or walking out of briefings en masse.
This move has been suggested and I put it down every time I hear such ridiculousness. As I said, we’re under fire and I support every single reporter covering the White House, from Breitbart to CNN and from the Daily Caller to the Washington Post. Everyone is just trying to do their job while we get unrivaled pressure from a White House that sneers at our presence and an equally hostile sector of the public that really has no idea the difference between a news story and this – an editorial or opinion piece.
Those expecting a confederacy among reporters or a brotherhood in arms do not understand how we work. But midway through this administration I want to say we are working.
We’ve been called the enemy of the people. Some of us have been threatened. Some of us had our press passes yanked and some of us have had the threat of having our press pass yanked. Some of us have been rude, according to White House standards, and some of us combative.
Meanwhile Jamal Khashoggi, a reporter for the Washington Post, has been killed by agents from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and while all rational beings on the planet believe the evidence exists to prove the Saudi Crown Prince ordered the killing, our president won’t accept that fact because the United States has sold the Saudis arms and the price of oil is low.
It is important to remember exactly what we face today – a concerted and driven effort to destroy the ability of a free press to operate and gather information.
Trump will not call out Saudi Arabia since there is money involved and Ambassador John Bolton, the country’s National Security Advisor, won’t listen to an audiotape of Khashoggi’s murder because he doesn’t speak Arabic.
I volunteered to listen to it for him, but he’s having none of that.
Meanwhile as some Congressmen, governors and local officials have taken up the same screeching sounds as Trump regarding the motives of the media, I’ve spoken with local reporters across the country who are, believe it or not, learning to work together to get information.
Cooperation in filing freedom of information requests, backing up reporters who ask questions and reporters standing up in meetings against the tyranny of an oppressive government, I’m happy to say – at least anecdotally – is on the uptick.
Hopefully it will continue.
I play on a big team and I am happy to be a member of this team since the 1980s.
We’re reporters, writers, editors, photographers. We’re journalists. We’re not going anywhere.