It’s a neat idea, but “Skype Seats” in the White House Briefing Room could also help alt-right publications seep into the mainstream – it screams of Steve Bannon’s media manipulation tactics. Keep an eye on it.
01/23/17 White House press briefing: we saw Pence’s influence in the Mexico City Policy, pull out of the TPP, NAFTA renegotiation, and even a handful of promising acts that could garner bi-partisan support.
Most interesting, however, was a side announcement; something Sean Spicer dubbed “Skype Seats” in the White House Briefing Room.
At first it sounds like a great idea: give more press access to the White House: small town newspapers and TV stations, college papers, you name it… and we hope that’s how it works. But we cannot ignore who decides which publications get access to those virtual seats. We don’t yet have much trust in Steve Bannon or President Trump’s never-ending need for adulation.
Our opinion: Skype Seats is a dual-purpose sales pitch that has Steve Bannon’s fingerprints all over it. The public likes the idea of more access, and Bannon also knows that the Trump Administration will benefit from having friendly journalists “present” who are not part of the main stream media.
Worse case scenario is Skype Seats is a way to ensure – and worse, legitimize – positive coverage of Trump’s White House. Any publication or website that is offered a Skype Seat will as a result get more exposure across the country, and even the world. They will be able to claim more credibility because they are “reporting from the White House Briefing Room”.
Sean Spicer said Skype Seats will bring “a diverse group of journalists” who don’t normally have access. In theory that’s great, but in reality, it’s safe to assume that at least one of them will always be a publication that either supports Trump, or is an alt-right publication heralded by Bannon and the darker corners of Trump’s voter base.
There will be many times when Sean Spicer will point to Skype Seat journalists who do not support Trump, and will therefore claim he’s not stacking the deck. But it’s good odds that when taken as a whole, Skype Seats in the briefing room is soft attempt to legitimize alt-right publications and stage “biggly support” for the Trump Administration.