There’s a new code in town. The White House has unveiled new “behavioral standards” for journalists attending press briefings, standards which already seem to be shaking up the press room. With the potential to affect journalists across the political spectrum, one conservative outlet has already found itself edged out.
Starting July 31, all journalists aspiring to renew their “hard passes”—the credentials that facilitate regular attendance at White House press briefings—must conform to the newly minted guidelines.
According to a recent notice, the White House anticipates that all hard pass holders will uphold professionalism while on White House grounds. This includes showing respect towards colleagues, White House employees, and guests; abiding by restrictions on access to specific areas of the White House or accredited events; and not obstructing events or briefings in progress. Any journalist repeatedly breaking these rules risks suspension or revocation of their hard pass.
But the new rules don’t stop there. To qualify for a hard pass, reporters must be full-time employees of an organization primarily involved in news dissemination, live in the greater Washington, D.C., area, and have worked at the White House at least once in the previous six months. Furthermore, they must hold press credentials for either the Supreme Court, Senate, or House.
This reshuffling of rules seems set to jettison multiple media outlets from the White House press room. One such outlet is The Daily Signal, which, since its 2014 inception, has garnered a strong conservative following and draws in an average of 2.5 million monthly readers.
Fred Lucas, the outlet’s Chief News Corresponditor and Manager of the Investigative Reporting Project, has held a hard pass since 2009 and commented on the rule changes, saying, “Under the new policy, there is zero transparency from the White House as to how many journalists are losing their hard passes.” Lucas also voiced concern about the lack of clear justification for dismissing media the administration finds non-compliant.
At this time, the full extent of the impact these new rules will have on media outlets is unknown. However, Lucas’s case suggests that he is not alone in facing the potential revocation of his hard pass.
Simon Ateba of Today News Africa, known for his assertive questioning during press briefings, has also been warned about the new rules. He claims these new standards seem custom-built to single him out, despite meeting all the stated requirements.
In these changing times, as the press grapples with new rules and their potential implications, the question is: Will these modifications foster the professionalism they aim for, or create a chilly atmosphere of exclusion? As is often the case in politics, only time will tell.