It goes without saying that the current American political climate is quite turbulent. In such a climate, it would be a gross understatement to say that the media and the American government are on friendly terms.
The media acts as a fact checker on behalf of the American people, but the gap between the media and the executive branch is widening at an alarming rate due to mistrust coming from the White House. The role of the press secretary is to act as the mediator between these two entities, who are polar opposites on almost every issue imaginable.
The current White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders began the Thanksgiving proceedings in an unusual way: Listing what she was thankful for and asking the journalists in the room to do the sam before they asked their questions. This cringe-worthy exercise backfired almost immediately, as several journalists struggled to contain their derision and disbelief.
The role of the journalists, in particular, is to provide context with which information is conveyed to the public. The second role of the press is to stir interest. This is done through extensive news and editorial coverage, which is often called the “agenda-setting” function of the media. The press also focuses on keeping the government accountable by uncovering and publicizing questionable policies and the abuse of authority.
In contrast, the press secretary has the primary responsibility of acting as spokesperson for the President of the United States and the White House. The responsibilities include collecting information about actions and events within the president’s administration and interacting with the media. The information may include a summary of the president’s daily schedule, presidential visitors and the official position of the administration on current events or political issues.
The superficial Thanksgiving conversation undermines the purpose of the White House Press Briefing since the interaction between the press and Huckabee Sanders is not about creating a friendly dialogue. It is about holding the White House accountable by giving the press the opportunity to question its affairs.
During this exercise, many reporters obliged to this request, undermining the roles both entities play. In a political climate as turbulent as the present day one, the reporters were wasting mere minutes that could have been better utilized questioning the White House policies.
This exercise was manipulated to reduce the amount of questions that would have been posed about other important issues such as the North Korean missile crisis, that deserves more airtime.
It is the duty of the press to correctly utilize the brief time they have to question the actions of the White House.