“Thank you,” the video begins, under the faces of journalists Abby Phillip, Yamiche Alcindor and April Ryan.
All female. All black. All recent subjects of scorn and insults from President Donald Trump.
Brave New Films, a nonprofit film and advocacy organization, created the 1 1/2-minute video, titled “Thanks,” to support and thank Phillip (from CNN), Alcindor (from PBS NewsHour) and Ryan (from CNN and American Urban Radio Networks).
The video juxtaposes each woman’s accomplishments and accolades against clips of the president’s comments at or about her.
It’s gut-punch effective.
“The challenge,” Brave New Films President Robert Greenwald told me, “has been what we could do that would be supportive of these journalists and not merely repeat the bullying and the insults.”
Greenwald said he and his colleagues weren’t satisfied letting Trump and his supporters dictate the narrative around journalists, in general, and black female journalists, specifically.
“I feel strongly about the contributions journalists have been making at this particular time in this country,” he said. “I don’t use this word often, but I think it’s been extraordinary, if you look at the level and depth of the investigative work that’s been going on. The fact that journalists who are doing their jobs are being insulted in both a sexist and racist fashion should give all of us pause.”
He wanted to make a video that would serve as that pause, but that would also steer the conversation away from Trump’s words and toward the journalists’ work.
“In the insulting,” he said, “what has gotten lost is the accomplishments and credits and achievements of these three women.”
Alcindor is a Georgetown University scholar and the winner of the 2017 Gwen Ifill Toner Prize, among others. Ryan is an NAACP Image Award winner and a Mary McLeod Bethune Trailblazer Award winner. Phillip is a Harvard graduate who worked at The Washington Post and Politico before landing at CNN. “I watch you a lot,” Trump told Phillip at a recent press conference. “You ask a lot of stupid questions.”
She asks pointed questions. Questions that the president would prefer to dodge. She and Ryan and Alcindor press for answers.
Whatever your feelings are about a particular journalist, or the media in general, it’s important to remember that the White House is your house. You pay for it. You choose who temporarily inhabits it. You pay the salary of its temporary inhabitant. You support the inhabitant’s family. You deserve and need to know what happens there.
Journalists provide that information.
Barring reporters, as Trump tried to do with CNN’s Jim Acosta, and lobbing invective their way, as he’s done repeatedly with the three women in this new video, are attempts to operate under the cover of darkness and secrecy.
That’s not OK. Not when the White House is making decisions that immediately and forever affect our health, our safety, our economic security, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the rights we’re afforded.
The president answers to the people. The people don’t answer to the president. Not in the United States of America. But the people don’t have a voice, nor do they have eyes and ears, without the press. No voice to ask him questions, no eyes and ears to see and record his answers and his actions.
Brave New Films is also collecting thank-you notes for the three women at bravenewfilms. org / whitehousereporters.
You can write your own online note (there are more than 50 pages of them so far, and the site launched Wednesday night) or add your name to a pre-written note that reads, in part:
“Thank you for your commitment to honest reporting on the White House. In spite of the verbal abuse and attempts to silence you, you persisted and asked the Trump administration tough questions to hold them accountable. … We admire your grit in the face of dismissive and demeaning language, and we appreciate your dedication to keeping the American public informed.”
Greenwald said he and his staff will compile the notes into a book and deliver a copy to each of the three women.
“We thought it would be an opportunity for people to express their thoughts, and we can pass those thoughts on,” Greenwald said. “I would assume that the three journalists would appreciate and like hearing from people around the country who don’t know them but are cheering for them and supporting them and respect the work they’re doing.”
It’s tempting (and important) to spend our time speaking out against the things we believe are unjust and unhealthy and wrongheaded. I’m grateful when people in positions of power remind us to speak up, also, about the things and the people we support.
(Article written by Heidi Stevens)