The Press Exists to Hold Power in Check

Trump isn’t the first president to think that locking up reporters is a good idea: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (and other early presidents) actually locked-up newspaper editors.

However, since the 1930s, it’s become harder and harder, and since the 1950s, it’s become damn near impossible. That’s why news that the 45th president has, reportedly, been asking around about doing this is so troubling.

The reports that Trump asked FBI then-director James Comey to lock up journalists has not been confirmed at this writing and stems from a memo Comey wrote and that was leaked to the press. In the memo, Comey wrote that Trump asked that an investigation into Michael Flynn’s dealings with Russia be quashed. (Flynn is the fallen National Security Advisor who spoke improperly to Russian officials and was fired for it.)

White House sources have said the memo doesn’t accurately reflect what Trump said to Comey in that private meeting.

The NY Times also reported that the memo says:

Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion [with Comey] by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

What journos have to be worried about here is “narrative bias.”

That is, Trump has made the media a punching bag, and in recorded interviews and speeches has said that laws should be changed to make journalists easier to sue for libel. He has also been on the record saying that he wants the leaks from his administration to end.

Therefore, those of us in the media may tend to believe that he would say anything, such as “lock ’em up.” We just have to follow the facts, not what we think are facts. You’ll notice in the quote, the Times says someone is saying that’s what the notes say. That’s different than the Times reporting that “the notes say this.”

The Times does a great job of explaining that Comey is a careful note-taker and even that FBI officer’s notes are used as evidence in trials. However, I really hope we see the proof soon. –Thurston

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