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 How Trump Brought the Political Media Class to Its Knees

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PostSubject: How Trump Brought the Political Media Class to Its Knees   Sat Nov 11, 2017 4:12 pm

Trump and his team understand that for the political press, the only thing that matters is what’s happening right now, not yesterday. And whether through his tweets or his surrogates in the briefing room, the president has been largely able to bait reporters into playing his game, because he knows what makes them tick.

The White House briefing room was constructed in 1969, a begrudging accommodation by Richard Nixon to give quarter to a growing phalanx of reporters assigned to cover the daily workings of a White House in war time. The room was placed on top of a small, indoor pool that was originally built for Franklin Roosevelt, who swam laps for therapy. John F. Kennedy was later rumored to have used the same pool for more prurient activities. It’s still under there today, albeit unfilled. If a trapdoor opened beneath Sarah Huckabee Sanders during her daily televised briefing, she would tumble directly into what was once the deep end.

In Kennedy’s time, before the briefing room, the White House press corps was largely a frat house of Ivy Leaguers who smoked Pall Malls, lived in Georgetown, and lounged around the West Wing during the day. After filing their newspaper and wire stories for the next morning, these nattily dressed hacks would drink Cutty Sark and gab off the record with a president who, generally speaking, shared in their sensibilities about the world, and almost certainly shared their pedigree. But after Kennedy’s assassination necessitated a minute-by-minute, body-watch style of media coverage, the White House press corps swelled in size. And with the advent of television, deep-voiced, square-jawed reporters became a distinct variety of national celebrity. The job earned a new kind of prestige that still endures in some depleted form. Even as the Internet has shattered every past definition of journalism, becoming a White House correspondent is still considered the apex of a reporting career in status-conscious Washington, a town accustomed to figuring out what matters only after the fact.

The outward glamor of the job title has always masked the workmanlike drudgery that defines it. The briefing room is, for instance, not only a refashioned aquatic center but also a cramped 49-seat, dollhouse version of a middle-school auditorium that can barely accommodate the crush of reporters, old and new, who have been assigned “hard passes” to cover the presidency.
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