January 15, 2017

A showdown is brewing over the fate of journalists in President-elect Donald Trump’s White House.

Several officials from the incoming administration are reportedly considering evicting reporters from their traditional offices inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, sparking concern from the association that assigns journalists seats in the White House briefing room.

“The White House Correspondents’ Association Board is aware of the comments from the president-elect’s team regarding continued news media access to the White House,” Jeff Mason, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said in a statement.

Mason was reacting to a report, published Saturday by Esquire, that quoted “three senior officials” on Trump’s transition team who said the new administration was giving “serious consideration” to banishing reporters from their offices by the James Brady Briefing Room. They would work instead from the White House Conference Center across the street.

The as-yet unannounced eviction plan would be in keeping with Trump’s dealings with the press during the campaign. Trump officials sought to keep journalists and news organizations who published tough stories at arm’s length; several, like BuzzFeed, The Washington Post and The Huffington Post, were blacklisted from campaign rallies and official events as the election neared.

“They are the opposition party,” one senior official told Esquire. “I want ’em out of the building. We are taking back the press room.”

Mason met with Trump spokesperson Sean Spicer Sunday to discuss the possibility of being evicted from the briefing room. In a statement released after the meeting, Mason called the two-hour sitdown “productive” and says he “emphasized the importance of the White House press briefing room.”

“I made clear that the (White House Correspondents’ Association) would view it as unacceptable if the incoming administration sought to move White House reporters out of the press work space behind the press briefing room,” Mason said. “Access in the West Wing to senior administration officials, including the press secretary, is critical to transparency and to journalists’ ability to do their jobs.”

The correspondents’ association vowed to “fight to keep the briefing room and West Wing access to senior administration officials open” in its statement.

“The briefing room is open now to all reporters who request access,” Mason said. “We support that and always will…we object strenuously to any move that would shield the president and his advisers from the scrutiny of an on-site White House press corps.”

Count on the press to fight hard for their turf near the briefing room. News organizations, including The New York Times, Politico and The Washington Post, have already invested unprecedented resources into coverage of the Trump White House.

Earlier today, Trump transition officials told Sunday show hosts that moving the White House briefing would allow the administration to expand the number of journalists who could participate.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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