US President Barack Obama holds a news conference in the White House press briefing room in Washington, US, November 14, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.
US President Barack Obama holds a news conference in the White House press briefing room in Washington, US, November 14, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

After being invited last month to spend a week giving lectures to journalism students in Kolkata, I planned to start by writing the word “integrity,” and asking this bright young next generation of journalists: “are you ready to die for it?”

The US presidential elections created an existential crisis in journalism and ruined its credibility, to the point that it might be better to rename the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the White House as the James S. Brady Citizens Briefing Room. It would more accurately honor the late White House Press Secretary who was seriously wounded during the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. That room cannot insult Brady’s memory by hosting assassins of media credibility.

Media credibility can begin recovering by keeping out the mouthpieces of vested interests masquerading as journalists.

Unfortunately for honest reporters, sacrificing the White House press corp ranks among first steps Donald Trump needs to honor his campaign vow to “Drain the Swamp,” and get rid of lobbyist monsters and their war-mongering masters.

Desperate diseases need radical remedies, a global message that we media professionals cannot get away with murder – murdering media credibility.

Time to ask the White House Press Corp to pack their bags 

Mainstream media has placed itself in a shameful situation where we cannot anymore demand transparency and accountability from others.

“To straighten the crooked, you must first do a much harder thing”, said the Buddha. “Straighten yourself.”

A trustworthy new media order needs getting rid of the corrupt news middlemen.

Elected leaders can communicate directly with citizens through emails, social media, webcasts, Town-hall type interactions.

A White House TV channel that would have been dismissed as propaganda ten years ago, will have more credibility than most big TV networks.

Millions who voted for Trump trusting his volition, ability to rebuild the country, escaped being hoodwinked by those he called “dishonest media” in his campaign speeches.

So more importantly, he cannot do ‘business as usual’ with the same media credibility assassins. Having made themselves irrelevant before Nov 8, they are irrelevant now.

Traditional press briefings are anyway anachronism and a wasted ritual in the Internet Age. More effective alternatives exist for a democratic leader to directly communicate with citizens without facts-twisting middlemen.

News-distortion disease and Citizens Briefing Room

The peculiar media disease of facts-twisting continues – like headlines on President-elect Trump’s decision to deport ‘two million immigrants’ or ‘two million undocumented immigrants.’ His exact words in the CBS interview on Nov 13: “What we are going to do is to get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of these people, probably two million, it could be even three million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate. But we’re getting them out of our country, they’re here illegally.” I saw no headline that included the crucial word ‘criminal’ – indicating Trump’s intention to send back illegal immigrants with crime records.

Trump can ensure Barack Obama becomes the last US President to waste taxpayers’ time with a facts-twisting media.

Get rid of the news brokers who do not represent ground realities, not interests of the country, not journalistic ethics, not rules of fair play – but are lackeys of a corrupt establishment.

Live webcasts, emailing White House briefings to anyone who wants it, including the extinct White House press corp, town-hall meetings can replace the old order of press conferences.

Cross-sections of citizens – with occasional focus groups like professionals, scientists, school children, corporate leaders – can ask the US President questions of personal, national and international interest.

The ordinary Joe and Jane will ask more honest, relevant queries than a media “no one trusts.” People can interact with their President from anywhere in the world courtesy Internet technology.

Allow a honest reporter or two into the White House, but no entry for professional truth-killers calling themselves ‘press.’

Time to start a new media order of the people, by the people, for the people.

Better for world leaders to use credible alternatives, in the democracy of the Internet which ensures free information anywhere online is accessible to millions worldwide.

Smaller media entities have become more credible options than the disgraced old journalism order of Washington Post, CNN and Co.

When the media watchdog of a democracy becomes lapdog of criminals, citizens need to take up the watch.

Can media professionals who colluded with a Presidential candidate having perhaps the worst CV in American political history be called “journalists”? Never again.

Why does the cynical mainstream media ignore this side of the man
called Donald Trump? Is positive news never news?

Raja Murthy

Raja Murthy is an independent journalist who has contributed to Asia Times since 2003, The Statesman since 1990, and formerly the Times of India, Economic Times, Elle, and others. He shuttles between Mumbai and the Himalayas.

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