How do I put this in a way that my fellow journalists will understand?
We seriously need to get our act together.
Anyone with a heartbeat and even a handful of IQ points rattling around his or her head should have known that Donald Trump's first news conference was going to be a hot mess. (That's part of his carnivalesque appeal, right? Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, step right up to the surrealist show on earth.)
We know who and what we have about to enter the White House. Those of us who haven't hopped on Trump's golden chariot need to behave accordingly, or in his case - defensively.
And that means having each other's backs when Trump and his merry band try to divide and conquer the press corps over unflattering coverage - most recently allegations of his ties with the Russian government. Though it changes by the minute.
"I have great respect for the news and great respect for freedom of the press and all of that," Trump said Wednesday in his first news conference in 167 days.
"But I will tell you, there were some news organizations with all that was just said that were so professional - so incredibly professional, that I've just gone up a notch as to what I think of you, OK?"
Red flag! Red flag!
Moments later Trump refused to answer a question from CNN's Jim Acosta - whose network reported only that intelligence officials had briefed Trump on the existence of the controversial dossier. BuzzFeed published all 35 pages of unverified and lurid details.
Trump snapped at Acosta. "Not you. . . . Your organization is terrible. . . . You are fake news."
BuzzFeed, CNN - same diff to Trump.
Acosta's fellow reporters jumped in with their own questions because as we know, all's fair in love and journalism, which I'm usually OK with if we weren't dealing with a presidential version of a Mean Girl.
But then, any reporter waiting for respect these days is going to be waiting a really long time - four years at least. Plus, this isn't really about reporters who are loyal to no one or nothing but the next scoop. It's not even about political bullies. Trump's hardly the only one.
It's about what's at stake when the press is suppressed, when Trumpisms matter more than truth.
Look, BuzzFeed's decision to print unsubstantiated information was journalistic suicide, for all of us in this anti-media environment. But here's the thing with a guy like Trump: Today it's BuzzFeed and CNN. Tomorrow it'll be (and has been) the New York Times and the Washington Post.
See how deftly he conflated BuzzFeed's click-baiting abomination with CNN's far more responsible reporting.
Competition is a natural and necessary part of journalism, but in a corral-like situation (and man that guy sure loves corralling the press while berating them) where no one is getting an exclusive, it's more important to hold the guy in power accountable - especially when so few are doing that.
An every-journalist-for-herself mentality certainly won't help change that. Neither will the spineless lawmakers in survival mode lining up at Trump's trough to play nice.
Profiles in courage, all of them.
Right now, I have the most faith in the American people who are refusing to go down without a fight - the hecklers at the confirmation hearings, the relentless Tuesdays with Toomey activists who meet outside U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey's Center City office every week in an almost nostalgic hope of having their elected public official actually meet with the public.
I applaud their resistance.
Maybe Trump would have taken his ball (or the stacks of manila folders that supposedly detailed his plans to disentangle himself from his business) and huffed off had reporters yielded the floor to the CNN reporter after Trump shut him down. We'll never know because like any other unchecked bully, he got away with it.
In a New York Times story about Trump's dossier on Thursday, Rick Wilson, a Republican political operative, said:
"It is a remarkable moment in history. What world did I wake up in?"
For journalists, it's a world where we must be prepared to suit up for every battle ahead.
In four - or eight - years, Trump will be gone.
We can't allow our nation's democracy to go with him.