It’s no secret that the Trump administration has a contentious relationship with the press, but regardless of Trump’s insistence that his Tweets have better ratings, the media still has a job to do. Following the announcement that the White House would end a decades old tradition of on-air press briefings, CNN circumvented the restrictions on cameras by sending their sketch artist to do the job. Make visuals great again!
As the Atlantic has noted, the press briefing has seen a rapid decline under the Trump administration. Sean Spicer has had a tough go of it, on one occasion hiding amongst some shrubberies to avoid the scrutiny of the journalists with whom he was to meet. He’s also born some of the White House’s blame for why there have been fewer on-air briefings of late. White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon’s explanation for the recent lack of air time was that “Sean got fatter.”
But the issue precedes any weight that Mr. Spicer might have gained. Last month, President Trump tweeted “…Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future ‘press briefings’ and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???” He was referring, of course, to his belief that the liberal media are perpetually mischaracterizing his administration.
Without audio or video, press conferences have been plunged into the 19th century, but fortunately, analogue technology was there to pick up the slack. Bill Hennessy, who is usually scribbling Supreme Court hearings, got a new assignment from CNN to cover Sean Spicer’s Friday afternoon briefing. He’s been doing this a long time, sketching any proceedings where a camera is barred from the room, including the Bill Clinton impeachment trial and the hearings of Guantanamo Bay prisoners. He simple sketches accomplish what the often bland world of press briefing photography would, albeit with less detail — they set the scene for the written word.
News Buster Curtis Houck suggested in a tweet that the artist’s drawings would be less objective than a photograph. But then again, the whole reason that Hennessy was there was the administration’s notion that the press is inherently biased, which, if it were true, would bleed into any account — written, drawn, or photographed. Until that’s addressed, there will continue to be a tug of war between the press and the White House, regardless of whether the former is equipped with lenses or pens.