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Grant Bosse: A free press doesn't need Trump's permission

By GRANT BOSSE
May 14. 2018 8:09PM




President Donald Trump’s threat last week to “take away credentials” is silly, short-sighted, and ultimately inconsequential.

Trump was venting on Twitter about the overwhelmingly negative news coverage of his chaotic administration. Of course, Trump and his tweets are the source of much of this coverage.

Trump conflates coverage of his mistakes with the unfair and inaccurate stories that have been published since he secured the Republican nomination two years ago. He also complains about the leaks that are the basis for the almost daily stories from inside his dysfunctional White House. Yet he can not resist calling up reporters, on and off the record.

Over the weekend, Jonathan Swan ran a piece on Axios talking to White House leakers who leaked about why this White House leaks so much. If Trump doesn’t like this circus, he should blame the clowns who work for him, not the people running the spotlights.

During a recent Slate podcast, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman made a very powerful observation about Trump’s schizophrenic relationship to the press.

“If cameras weren’t allowed into the White House, the person who would be saddest is Donald Trump,” Haberman said. As for the White House potentially pulling press credentials from disfavored reporters, she added, “People don’t need his permission to cover him.”

I have long argued that politicians should not get to pick the press that covers them.

I’ve had my press credentials yanked twice. And both times, I did what any responsible reporter would do. I screamed bloody murder.

In 2010, less than a year into my stint running the New Hampshire Watchdog website for the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, Senate President Sylvia Larsen revoked my floor privileges. I had wanted to film Senate debate over the state budget, which I had been covering in depth for the past seven months.

But Larsen decided that I was not with a “media outlet” and kicked me out.

In 2010, Gov. John Lynch’s staff asked me to leave an invitation-only briefing on his plan to fix the $295 million budget deficit he’d created.

In both cases, losing access was an inconvenience, but did not prevent me from reporting on the state budget.

In 2012, House Speaker Bill O’Brien pulled a similar stunt, disinviting the Concord Monitor from a press conference in his office because he was upset at an editorial cartoon that depicted him with Adolph Hitler’s mustache.

The cartoon was vile. Taking it out on the Monitor’s reporters was foolish.

This newspaper stood up for WMUR when Democratic candidates forced ABC to drop its New Hampshire affiliate from a presidential debate over a labor dispute. ABC kicked us out of the Republican debate because Trump complained about our coverage.

Trump regularly barred reporters and outlets from covering his campaign rallies when he disliked a story. Those he did let in were confined to a pen, and subjected to ridicule from the stage.

This didn’t stop cable news outlets from giving Trump unprecedented airtime.

On Saturday, the New Hampshire Republican State Committee held its own three-ring circus, except they called it a convention. It was closed to the press.

Given the squabbling over the platform and delegate credentials, issues of little concern to voters, this was understandable. Yet it didn’t stop us, or the rest of the state press corps, from reporting the story.

The press should fight for access to our politicians. Thankfully, we need not rely on the cooperation of politicians in order to cover them.

Grant Bosse is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Email him at gbosse@unionleader.com and follow him on Twitter @grantbosse.


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