In normal times, serving as White House press secretary requires a juggler’s skill at balancing one important constituency — the president of the United States — with another — the insatiable need of the national media for quotes, answers, tips. During the Trump presidency, there has been little actual juggling: Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders subordinated the media’s imperatives to the madcap work of pleasing a mendacious and self-centered boss.

Stephanie Grisham is succeeding Sanders as press secretary, and she used a contentious moment during President Trump’s Sunday visit to North Korea to bring some balance back to this act. She came into the job as the communications director for first lady Melania Trump, gathering a reputation for toughness and ferocity.

“Go, go!” Grisham shouted to members of the U.S. media as she jostled with a man apparently bent on blocking access to stateside reporters. Jennifer Jacobs, a Bloomberg reporter, noted that North Korean officials had been “overzealous” as they curtailed access. U.S. media outlets were seeking to catch a glimpse of a room — in a building called the Inter-Korean House of Freedom — in which Trump met with North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un, according to the Associated Press.

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Reports indicate that the access-related bumping was so heated that Grisham was bruised as she cleared the way for U.S. reporters.

Good for Grisham.

There’s no way to overstate the importance of access to such meetings by a free and unfettered press. Every official encounter of this sort includes a whole bunch of visuals that need to be captured to properly contextualize the proceedings. What is the body language? Was there a smirk on Trump’s face as he spoke about the bilateral relationship? What was being discussed? Remember that much-circulated photo of Trump and Germany’s Angela Merkel at the June 2018 Group of Seven summit?

“Fake news” media sources don’t provide such information. And in North Korea, that’s the only news that exists. Censorship is so thorough that key news events aren’t generally reported in real time, the better to give propagandists time to fashion the official line. As Reuters has reported, “almost no ordinary citizens [are] allowed to connect by phone or internet to the outside world.”

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As part of her ascent in the White House’s communications apparatus, Grisham adopted the mentality of the chief citer of “fake news":

After her bruising encounter with purveyors of real fake news, perhaps Grisham will recalibrate her position.

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