Crisis Brewing for Years: A Reporter’s Final Straw

This is the story of one Capitol reporter’s final straw. He has watched a crisis brew for years, and it finally reached its breaking point on Jan. 6 when he found himself in an empty briefing room with no information to report. The reporter asked his editor: “What am I supposed to do?

The question was rhetorical — there was no answer — and it was more than just a personal problem shared by this single journalist. It became clear that the Trump administration’s lack of transparency had become a crisis for journalists across Washington D.C., who are struggling to find sources willing to talk about what they know, or at least share any newsworthy information from inside their agencies or departments, as well as those outside the Beltway who have insight into the inner workings of the federal government.

“It’s a crisis for journalists trying to cover public agencies, and it’s a crisis for transparency in general, ”said Steven Aftergood, director of the Government Secrecy Project of the Federation of American Scientists.”A lot of information which is not really classified, but which is certainly in thepublic interest  has become harder for journalists to obtain, and in some cases impossible.

Jim – I think you know this is not true. Since Obama took office, transparency has broken down significantly. FOIA is a mess with increased denials and increased fees. There have been more prosecutions of leakers under Obama than all other Presidents combined. The intelligence committees have become increasingly closed.

Just because you are an insider with a friend or two at the White House does not mean things are different now than under Obama, Bush, Clinton etc. I know because my company tracks these stats for all of our clients – they are called FOIA Stats and show that your assertion is completely false. You can even go to the FOIA Project web site and pull up thousands of examples just since January of 2017.
Do you see all those red bars? Those are denials.

See what they did this past year? You guys just don’t get it do you? It has become more difficult for everyone – not just journalists. And that was exactly the point of the FOIA reforms – to make records harder for everyone so that people would have to file more requests and the government could respond with denials to hide their misdeeds.

Under Obama, they were able to do a lot because no one knew what was going on behind the scenes. Trump has just undone all that work it took many years before, and you guys still don’t get it.

It is too bad, but in the end this will all come out in a few years and we can just put it on the record then – that however bad Trump may be, he has done nothing to degrade transparency any more than Obama did before him. And that remains true even if you think he is the devil.

The problem here is that you are not dealing with reality. You are just too close to the situation to see clearly. No one cares about your skewed views or your hidden agenda – so it’s time to turn off your computer and go home until things calm down a bit.