The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Donald Trump just barred Washington Post reporters from campaign events. That should bother you.

The Post’s Margaret Sullivan explores what might have led Donald Trump to revoke the newspaper’s media credentials. (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

Donald Trump announced via Facebook on Monday afternoon that he has decided to ban The Washington Post from covering his presidential campaign.

Trump expanded on that in a statement released Monday night. Here it is, in full:

The Washington Post unfortunately covers Mr. Trump very inaccurately. Today's headline, "Donald Trump Suggests President Obama Was Involved With Orlando Shooting" is a perfect example. We no longer feel compelled to work with a publication which has put its need for "clicks" above journalistic integrity.
They have no journalistic integrity and write falsely about Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump does not mind a bad story, but it has to be honest. The fact is, The Washington Post is being used by the owners of Amazon as their political lobbyist so that they don't have to pay taxes and don't get sued for monopolistic tendencies that have led to the destruction of department stores and the retail industry.

Post Executive Editor Martin Baron responded soon after via Twitter.

(Note: The headline of the piece Trump cites above was changed. It originally read "Donald Trump suggests President Obama was involved with Orlando shooting." The Post changed the headline to more precisely reflect what Trump said in the interview with Fox News; it did so without hearing from the Trump campaign. The headline now reads: "Donald Trump seems to connect President Obama to Orlando shooting.")

This is the first time Trump has revoked The Post's credentials to cover his campaign but far from the first time he has banned reporters from his events.

This should worry you. And by "you," I mean everyone who is a citizen of the United States.

Donald Trump is one of two people who have a chance at being elected president Nov. 8. That is the most powerful job in the world. Period.

Given that reality, reporting on what Trump says and does is extremely important to people making an informed decision about the choice before them this fall. Same goes for Hillary Clinton, of course. The job of journalists — at The Post and everywhere else — is to give voters the fullest and most accurate picture of the two people who want to represent all of us as president.

That is a task that is, inherently, at conflict — at least at times — with the story the candidates want to tell about themselves. That tension is natural and often leads to uncomfortable relationships between the candidates and the media who cover them. Both sides push — the media for more accountability and transparency, the candidate for more "straight" reporting of what they are proposing without alleged editorializing.

It's how things work.  It's how things have always worked. The media's job isn't to simply write down whatever the candidate says and regurgitate it. The candidate's job isn't to kowtow to the media or do and say things the way he or she thinks the media wants to hear.

The problem with what Trump is doing is that he is revoking access because he disagrees with the coverage. Not because we have the facts wrong. It's because he doesn't like how the facts are being presented.

If you believe in a free press, you should also believe it's not his right to do that. Trump can complain. He can not grant interviews with The Post (or the other organizations he has banned). He can call them out in speeches as being "dishonest." But barring reporters from public events because you disagree with what they write is a dangerous precedent.

Both Trump and Clinton — through her continued refusal to conduct a formal press conference for months — are pushing the boundaries of acceptable conduct in regards to the media. Why? Because they know that the public's confidence in the media is at record lows.

Blasting the media and refusing them access will play well with Trump's base. And Clinton's base couldn't care less about the fact that she hasn't held a press conference in almost 200 days. Good, they say. The media is finally being punished for all their slanted coverage over the years!

Two points on that.

First, I can't speak for the entire media. But I can speak for me. And I would encourage you to go back through The Fix archives in this election or in past elections and judge for yourself whether I am biased or skewed to one party or one candidate. I think you'd be hard pressed to draw that conclusion.

Second, remember the slippery slope. Sure, saying one outlet is biased and banning it doesn't seem like a big deal. But if there are no referees, no objective judges to say "this is true and this isn't," then what are we left with? Each side with its own collection of "facts." And that is a very dangerous place for a democracy to be — and one we are closer to than many people realize.

You don't have to like the media. You can even hate us. But you should recognize that we are necessary for the functioning democracy that we all want.