Trump Orders Feds to Cancel NYT and WaPo Subscriptions

The President is tired of all the fake news.

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The President has canceled the White House’s subscriptions to the New York Times and Washington Post—and is apparently going to order all federal agencies to follow suit.

The Wall Street Journal, which hasn’t been banned—yet—reports:

The White House is planning to instruct federal agencies to not renew their subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post, administration officials said, escalating President Trump’s attacks on the media outlets.

“Not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving—hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be saved,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an email Thursday.

Ms. Grisham declined to provide further details, and it wasn’t immediately clear how the White House intended to compel agencies to cancel the subscriptions or how soon the order would take effect. The White House was still working on implementing the directive as of Thursday morning, an administration official said.

[…]

The president has repeatedly railed against and sought to discredit the newspapers’ coverage of his administration, including its dealings with Ukraine and the resulting impeachment inquiry in the House. On Twitter and during campaign rallies, Mr. Trump has attacked the news media, calling it the “enemy of the people” and dismissing some of the country’s most venerable journalism outlets as “fake news.”

In June, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that a Times story represented a “virtual act of Treason.” The publisher of the New York Times, A.G. Sulzberger, responded with an opinion article in The Wall Street Journal, saying the “new attack crosses a dangerous line in the president’s campaign against a free and independent press.”

Aside from the childishness of the act and outrageousness of using his office to go after the freedom of the press, it’s not obvious he has the authority to do this. I haven’t the foggiest idea how agencies go about getting the authorization to subscribe to periodicals—we don’t get any non-DoD publications in my institution—but would presume there’s a process involved to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse.

In the age of Internet news, it’s not obvious why most Federal offices would need or could justify paying for a subscription to any newspaper. There’s more news available for “free” than anyone could possibly read. While the NYT and WaPo are, along with the WSJ, arguably the three most important papers in the country, there are few stories of any significance that one couldn’t get elsewhere.

The NYT used to offer free subscriptions to those with a .gov or .mil email address but stopped some time back. WaPo still does. So, government employees who need access to do their jobs will be able to get one of the two papers at no cost regardless of whether the order goes into effect.

The NYT report on the story has an amusing anecdote:

There is some precedent for a presidential cancellation.

In 1962, John F. Kennedy, apparently fed up with the coverage of The New York Herald Tribune, decreed that copies of that newspaper would no longer be delivered to the White House. His press secretary, Pierre Salinger, after initially ignoring the president’s repeated requests to cancel the paper, eventually acquiesced and announced that Kennedy would instead read The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The move was met with mockery. A New Jersey lawmaker ordered a year’s gift subscription to The Herald Tribune sent to Kennedy. On the floor of Congress, Representative Steven Derounian, Republican of New York, called the decision “childlike.”

“If all members of Congress followed the president’s lead, we would find that we were reading no newspapers at all,” Mr. Derounian said, according to an account in The Congressional Record. “It might be well to remind President Kennedy that on Jan. 20, 1961, he was inaugurated as president, not coronated as king.”

Kennedy, it turned out, could not get along without his daily copy of The Herald Tribune. In his memoir, Mr. Salinger wrote that the staff was forced to “bootleg” copies of the paper to the president until it was formally allowed back in the White House.

Interestingly, the Herald-Tribune went out of business in 1966, although a deal was struck with the NYT and WaPo to keep its Paris affiliate alive as the International Herald Tribune. It remained in existence until its rebranding as the NYT International Edition in 2013.

FILED UNDER: Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Noted on another forum: Subscriptions to the New York Post and the National Enquirer will be permitted. /s

  2. @SC_Birdflyte:

    Don’t forget the Washington Times

  3. CSK says:

    Well, at least Trump can rely on the stellar reportage and crisp, elegant writing that are hallmarks of The Gateway Pundit.

  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    This is all bluster…I’ll bet a case of 25 year old scotch that they’ll maintain their digital subscriptions, and Mr. Vanity will still get clippings that have pretty pictures of him.
    Just a shiny object…look, squirrel!!!

    Let’s get to Barr opening a criminal investigation into the DOJ’s own probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    trump doesn’t like what other people read in the NYTimes or the WashPost. Maybe if they expanded the funny pages.

  6. Jen says:

    In the age of Internet news, it’s not obvious why most Federal offices would need or could justify paying for a subscription to any newspaper. There’s more news available for “free” than anyone could possibly read. While the NYT and WaPo are, along with the WSJ, arguably the three most important papers in the country, there are few stories of any significance that one couldn’t get elsewhere.

    As a PR professional, I can tell you that two things are necessary for any state or federal agency. One is a paid news monitoring tool. Cision is the big dog out there, but there are dozens of others, that allow an agency to monitor *and do analysis on* news coverage. The latter bit is the reason for the need to pay for a monitoring tool. Free alerts–you get what you pay for.

    The second need are subscriptions to the most relevant news sources that provide reporting on what is relevant to you. At the state level, that would include the largest two dailies in the state, and any policy-specific journals. Getting locked out of reviewing a specific story that you need to develop a response to because you can’t get around the free article limits injects unnecessary frustration and delay.

    Saying “meh, you can get the story somehow” is exactly how we’ve ended up with half-stories and half-truths. Reading–and paying for–quality journalism matters.

    10
  7. James Joyner says:

    @Jen: That’s fair. I pay for a NYT digital subscription and get WaPo digital for free because I have a .mil account in addition to my .edu. I’m mostly thinking of getting hard copies of the paper, although there are few national or international politics stories of interest to feds in either that aren’t soon “re-reported” by Vox, Politico, etc.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    the childishness of the act

    I think that says it all.

  9. CSK says:

    @gVOR08: It’s sort of like the ostrich sticking its head in the sand: Trump seems to think that if he doesn’t read either paper, no one else will, either.

  10. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner: I get hard copies of WaPo on the weekend, which also gives full digital access. I like reading the Sunday paper on paper, and the Post’s weekend magazine often has excellent pieces (in addition to the restaurant reviews which I always enjoy). I think getting paper copies all week would just end up with lots of unread papers in the recycle bin.

  11. Kathy says:

    If he makes nice with Xi, I’m sure Dennison could hire a Chinese IT team to build a Great Big Beautiful Firewall of Washington.

    And get the free press to pay for it.

  12. Tyrell says:

    I’ve been saying for years that the Federal government is way behind the times: rotary dial phones, manual typewriters, and Radio Shack computers. And they are still getting newspapers? That is so 1950 and ’60’ ish.