What is Jim Acosta’s job, any­way?

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - LARRY O’CON­NOR Larry O’Con­nor writes about pol­i­tics and the me­dia for The Wash­ing­ton Times and can be heard week­day af­ter­noons on WMAL ra­dio in Wash­ing­ton. Fol­low Larry on Twit­ter @Lar­ryOCon­nor.

Af­ter the lat­est episode this week in the re­al­ity show “Jim Acosta: White House Melt­down,” it’s long past time for CNN to tell us what ex­actly Mr. Acosta’s ac­tual job is.

His ti­tle is “se­nior White House cor­re­spon­dent,” but the man­ner in which he ex­e­cutes his du­ties be­trays that la­bel.

Dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s epic press con­fer­ence, Mr. Acosta was called upon by Pres­i­dent Trump to ask a ques­tion on be­half of his net­work. Mr. Acosta be­gan by say­ing, “Thank you, Mr. Pres­i­dent. I wanted to chal­lenge you on one of the state­ments you made dur­ing the cam­paign.”

“I wanted to chal­lenge you” is not the be­gin­ning of a ques­tion; it’s the be­gin­ning of a de­bate.

And a con­fronta­tional de­bate is ex­actly what

Mr. Acosta got. It’s also pretty clear that it’s ex­actly what he wanted. Is it what CNN wanted?

Is the job of a White House cor­re­spon­dent (a “se­nior” one, no less) to de­bate the pres­i­dent or to ask ques­tions of the pres­i­dent that will elicit in­for­ma­tion that is use­ful to the net­work’s view­ers? One would sus­pect that the tra­di­tional def­i­ni­tion of a cor­re­spon­dent or re­porter would sug­gest that the lat­ter job de­scrip­tion would be more apt, but CNN seems com­fort­able with the for­mer.

Most net­works or pub­li­ca­tions ex­pect their re­porters at the White House to do one of two things: ask ques­tions of the pres­i­dent or his sur­ro­gates and then re­port the an­swers to their view­ers/read­ers, or build sources and ac­cess so that you can break sto­ries and scoop your com­peti­tors on im­por­tant sto­ries about the pres­i­dency. The best White House re­porters do both. It ap­pears Mr. Acosta does nei­ther.

What’s worse, CNN has put Mr. Acosta in the un­ten­able po­si­tion of be­ing an on-site pun­dit and an­a­lyst per­form­ing a func­tion that would be best-suited to the an­chor­man or the an­a­lyst back in their stu­dio. From the early days of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, Mr. Acosta would in­ject him­self into the pro­ceed­ings of a White House press con­fer­ence.

At the con­clu­sion of the presser, Wolf Bl­itzer would re­cap the pro­ceed­ings from his stu­dio one mile down the street from 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Ave. Within mo­ments, he’d go back to Mr. Acosta from the brief­ing room and ask him some­thing like, “Jim, what do you make of this?” or “Jim, what do you think the White House is do­ing with re­gard to …” and then Mr. Acosta the re­porter would be off the clock and Mr. Acosta the po­lit­i­cal pun­dit would be off and run­ning.

The more histri­onic Mr. Acosta’s ac­tions be­came, the more screen time he would achieve. CNN was not only per­mit­ting and en­abling his an­tics, but they were also re­ward­ing them. As any par­ent, teacher or em­ployer knows, ac­tions that are re­warded are of­ten re­peated. And Mr. Acosta has re­peated his ac­tions ten­fold.

So it goes to CNN to ex­plain why they con­tinue to place Mr. Acosta in this po­si­tion. Do they still think he is serv­ing the proper func­tion of a White House re­porter? Do they want all of their White House re­porters to be­have this way?

Chris Plante, a for­mer CNN re­porter for 20 years (and now a syn­di­cated talk ra­dio host), says that if he had be­haved the way Mr. Acosta does at press con­fer­ences, he “would have been fired by CNN im­me­di­ately.” Which raises an­other ques­tion for the net­work: What would Mr. Acosta have to do to ac­tu­ally lose his po­si­tion at the White House?

Un­der­stand, I’m not ad­vo­cat­ing for Mr. Acosta to be fired. Un­like me­dia an­a­lysts on the left (in­clud­ing those who work for CNN), I would not call for any­one to lose their job. But per­haps a dif­fer­ent beat would be more suited for Mr. Acosta. If his lat­est es­capade (com­plete with in­ap­pro­pri­ate, ag­gres­sive phys­i­cal con­tact with a young fe­male White House in­tern) is not enough to have his cur­rent as­sign­ment reeval­u­ated, what would be?

What mes­sage is CNN send­ing to all of their other re­porters by con­tin­u­ing to re­ward Mr. Acosta with his plum as­sign­ment? Un­less they want an en­tire bureau filled with replica Acostas con­fronting se­na­tors, con­gress­men, Cab­i­net sec­re­taries or any other tar­gets like a po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist forc­ing them­selves into Tucker Carl­son’s home, they’d bet­ter lay out ex­actly what their stan­dard of be­hav­ior is.

By their si­lence, CNN is com­mu­ni­cat­ing to their cur­rent sta­ble of jour­nal­ists and a whole gen­er­a­tion of young jour­nal­ists-in-wait­ing that the Acosta ap­proach is what’s ex­pected … no, what’s de­manded of a suc­cess­ful re­porter. Is that re­ally what they want? Is that what Mr. Acosta’s col­leagues in the White House brief­ing room want?

I sus­pect not. So who in the front row of the James S. Brady Brief­ing Room will have the courage to say so? Who will raise his or her hand at the next press con­fer­ence, rise from their seat and apol­o­gize to the pres­i­dent, to Sarah Huck­abee San­ders and to the Amer­i­can peo­ple on be­half of their col­league? Who will turn to Mr. Acosta and ask, “At long last, sir, have you no shame?”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.