New York Times White House Correspondent Maggie Haberman spoke about everything from her experience working as a bartender during her college years to the ways in which President Trump has completely shattered norms.
On April 11, Hillel, Medill, The Office of the President and Contemporary Thought Speaker Series hosted Haberman who joined Dean Charles Whitaker in conversation in front of a packed room at the McCormick Foundation Center.
To start the events off, North by Northwestern sat down with Haberman. This time, she sat on the other end of the interview. We began by asking her about the hostile relationship between the press and the current administration and whether this is a new phenomenon.
“No president or their administration ever likes the coverage, and they have all tried in various ways to work the ref, and so I think that in and of itself is not new,” Haberman said. “If the White House was happy with the coverage each day, then that would suggest that people weren’t doing their jobs. But, I think that the hostility the president vents, whether he means it or not, and the rhetoric that he uses, whether he means it or not, is very unusual.”
Haberman stressed that past presidents, such as Bill Clinton, would rail about the press while in office, just usually in more private settings. She suggested that both he and Hillary Clinton felt hunted by the press from almost the minute they got to Washington D.C.
Although Haberman believes that one could not have seen such a hostile relationship between the media and the White House coming, she does believe that there had been previous warning signs of encroachments of freedom of the press previously, specifically during the Obama administration. For instance, his administration was notorious for hunting down leaks and even went as far as to subpoena phone records.
“There were a lot of incursions on reporters’ ability to report that the Obama administration made that I think should have been more alarming to people,” Haberman said. “It isn't enough just to say, you know, ‘we believe in a free press’ while trying to prosecute leakers very aggressively. It isn't just that you have to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. Obama talked the talk much more. Trump does neither. And so, I do think that what took place under Obama should not be forgotten.”
In terms of the role of reporters during the upcoming 2020 election, Haberman stressed that she doesn't believe predictive journalism serves the readers well and that she doesn’t see them doing it again. She also said that the New York Times will stay mindful about what it puts in its headlines and the impressions that it can give. However, with that being said, she still believes that the media should not be the tip of the spear for one side or another and that journalists should be writing for history and documentation instead.
Regardless of how many times Trump has personally criticized Haberman and referred to the media as “the enemy of the people,” Haberman said she feels incredibly privileged to do what she does and that she loves her job regardless of how exhausted she’ll find herself. And when asked what a typical day of hers looks like, Haberman said that besides dropping her kids off for school in the morning, she doesn’t really have one.