Sean Spicer, the ghosts of press secretaries past would like to have a word with you.
Ari Fleischer, who served in the post under President George W. Bush, and Mike McCurry, who had it under President Bill Clinton, on Wednesday renewed a call for the Trump administration to work more effectively with the media.
The pair made that case in a column they co-authored for the Columbia Journalism Review in early January, before Trump even took office. Given Spicer’s new habit of holding off-camera press briefings, however, the advice seemed not to be heeded ― so the duo drew attention to it again today on Twitter.
“Despite the rancor that exists today between the media and Trump,” the two wrote in January, “we believe there are ways to make their relationship beneficial to the public they both serve.”
Among other recommendations, the two ex-press secretaries suggested press briefings be filmed under embargo and released later in the day, instead of treating them as a live television event.
They argued that doing so would help tone down what’s become a rowdy confrontation full of “gotcha” moments, and instead refocus the briefings on “facts and substance.” The two also noted that a return to live coverage would be easy in the event of “a major compelling” incident.
The January column presciently predicted the difficulty of running the press shop for a boss who likes to send his own messages on the internet. But rather than weaken the press secretary’s impact, they argued, that makes the office all the more important:
In a new era of pre-dawn tweets by the chief executive and myriad changes in media technology, we recognize that many of the traditions of presidential communications may change. But there is something enduring about a commitment to the public’s right to know and the obligation of the White House to tell.