Media Memo: ‘Stupid Questions,’ Rarer Briefings, No Holiday Party: Trump’s Year With the Press

It can be easy to forget that, two years ago, the White House press briefing took place nearly every day. The president refrained from insulting reporters on live television. And correspondents did not lose their access for showing insufficient “respect.”

That’s the thing about traditions — they tend to be sacrosanct until they aren’t.

The rituals of reporting on the White House, and the place of journalism in American life, continued to shift in 2018 under President Trump. On Twitter, he used the term “Fake News” 174 times, nearly once every two days.

Presidents usually hold a holiday reception for the Washington press corps (even Mr. Trump acquiesced to one in 2017); this year’s edition was canceled. Presidents usually avoid criticizing American journalists on foreign soil; visiting Britain, Mr. Trump called NBC News “dishonest” and refused to take a question from Jim Acosta of CNN. (“Music to the ears of dictators and authoritarian leaders,” said an official at the Committee to Protect Journalists.)

Mr. Trump is reinventing relations between the president and the press. Next year may reveal if the changes are a blip, or permanent.

The Briefing Vanishes …

When Sarah Huckabee Sanders approached her lectern on Dec. 18, it was the press secretary’s first appearance in the White House briefing room in three weeks. About 15 minutes later, she left the stage as reporters shouted questions.

The White House briefing has been criticized as a rote, futile exercise where journalists showboat for cameras and press aides dissemble. Supporters call it a symbol of transparency in government and a chance to force officials to defend their

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