Conservatives have long condemned a prevailing culture in the press in which preserving a cordial relationship between reporter and subject seemed to be the principle objective. It has taken the inauguration of a president with whom reporters have a bitterly hostile relationship to reinvigorate the conscience of the press. That reorientation accelerated over the weekend following a humiliating display in which White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway promoted an insultingly thin narrative in which Americans were asked not to believe their own eyes.
The journalistic class has been so offended by Spicer’s claim that this sparsely attended inauguration had “the largest audience” of any prior inauguration that they implicitly conceded many of the points that conservative media critics have been making for the last eight years. “The traditional way of reporting–digging–is back,” averred McClatchy’s Washington editor, Kristin Roberts. “It’s the lazy, modern way that relies on handouts that might now be dead.” Roberts was remarking on a Washington Post column from media columnist and former New York Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, who quoted numerous journalists newly endowed with a steely resolve to do journalistic combat with this White House.