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25 Oct, 2019 11:05

Subscription war on ‘fake news’: WaPo, NYT ousted from White House, federal agencies told to follow lead

Subscription war on ‘fake news’: WaPo, NYT ousted from White House, federal agencies told to follow lead

Trump has unleashed an unprecedented attack on the free media (or shown fake news its place) - depending on which side you're on - by cancelling White House subscriptions to the WaPo and NYT, telling federal agencies to do so too.

No love is lost between US president and a large part of the American journalistic community. Trump repeatedly derided them as “fake news” and “enemies of the people.” He was accused in response of being a man-child and a wannabe dictator.

The president’s criticisms were not always without merit, considering how many times the coverage of the Russiagate saga turned out to be inaccurate or even completely false, and always in the same anti-Trump direction.

Also on rt.com ‘Fake news’ is okay if it’s about #RussiaGate: Top 7 fake ‘collusion’ stories the media pushed

This week, Donald Trump delivered his latest salvo against the critical US press, announcing his desire to cancel subscriptions for the printed versions of the New York Times and the Washington Post, two of his most consistent detractors. “They’re fake,” he explained to Fox News host Sean Hannity on Monday. Neither newspaper was delivered to the White House on Thursday morning, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Trump administration is now strongly urging federal agencies to drop their subscriptions too.

“Not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving – hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be saved,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told the WSJ without offering further details.

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It’s not clear if this promise of a scorched earth bombing, targeting the two newspapers’ bottom line, would be as comprehensive as it may be. If it is, WaPo and the Times would obviously lose not only subscription fees but also some of the clout they have with advertisers, if the print editions are expelled from coffee tables and stands in places of power across the US.

On the other hand, the Trump administration has a record of backtracking on the decisions taken over the president’s feud with the media, like reinstating White House credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta in November last year. Some people, including WaPo columnist Megan McArdle, suggested the move may even benefit the newspapers, since Americans would rush to defend the free press by subscribing more.

The US journalistic community is taking a stance of indignant outrage in response to Trump’s treatment of the two newspapers.

“I have no doubt the hard-working reporters of the New York Times and Washington Post will continue to do quality journalism regardless of whether the president acknowledges he reads them,” said Jonathan Karl, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association and chief White House correspondent for ABC News.

Pretending to ignore the work of a free press won’t make the news go away or stop reporters from informing the public and holding those in power accountable.

It’s worth noting that cancelling subscriptions to the WaPo and the Times doesn’t mean federal workers won’t be able to read them. Both papers offer free online access to anyone with an email using a ‘.gov’ or ‘.mil’ domain.

For the record, expressing disdain for the press in this way is not unprecedented for a US president. John F. Kennedy did the same thing with the New York Herald Tribune in response to what he saw as unfair coverage by the Republican-leaning paper. The subscription was renewed after tempers cooled.

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