The Committee to Protect Journalists, which called Donald Trump “an unprecedented threat to the rights of journalists,” had its $1,000-a-plate banquet at the Waldorf-Astoria Nov. 22. Humble pie should have been served.

Jeff ZuckerJeff Zucker

Committe to Protect Journalists logo
Jeff Zucker, president of CNN and chair of the dinner, had been excoriated on Nov. 21 by Trump at a meeting with reporters. The New York Post said “Trump started with Zucker and said, ‘I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed.”

“Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a roomful of liars, the deceitful, dishonest media who got it all wrong,’” reported NYP. The meeting was supposedly off-the-record. The New York Times did not report it. NYP headlined: “Summit is a firing squad.”

Zucker made no mention of the Trump blast at the CPJ dinner, funded by blue chip media and other corporations. He said CNN “will hold the new administration’s feet to the fire and they should respect that even if they don’t welcome it.”

Zucker Called Hypocrite, Provokes Laughter

Zucker’s demand for fair treatment by Trump, after his network had done its best delegitimize the Trump candidacy, provoked tweets in the audience that included the words “laughter,” “hypocrisy” and “cognitive dissonance.”

Tweeted James Warren, chief media writer for Poynter: “There was no evident suggestion of hypocrisy expressed around the room but that clearly was the take of some at the august New York gathering.”

Lydia Polgreen, editorial director, NYT Global, tweeted: “Some cognitive dissonance hearing David Remnick then Jeff Zucker on press freedom tonight at the CPJ awards dinner.” Remnick is editor of the New Yorker.

Miriam ElderMiriam Elder

Miriam Elder, BuzzFeed’s world editor, tweeted there were “laughs in part of the crowd” when Zucker said CPJ will “hold the administration’s feet to the fire.”

Tweeted Jeremy Scahill, a co-founder of The Intercept: Committee to Protect Journalists dinner: Jeff Zucker just gave blah blah about holding Trump to account. He just went to off record Trump meeting."

Anna Holmes of Jezebel noted that Zucker had hired Corey Lewandowski, former Trump campaign manager, as a CNN commentator but he resigned in October. Lewandowski was bound by a non-disclosure agreement with Trump that limited his ability to criticize Trump. He was also still receiving severance pay from Trump.

Keynoter Christiana Amanpour, CNN’s chief correspondent, briefly referred to a Trump post-election tweet that said, “Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very Unfair.”

Trump “walked back the part about the protesters but not the part about the media,” said Amanpour, adding: “We are not there but postcard from the world: this is how it goes with authoritarians like Sisi, Erdogan, Putin, the Ayatollahs, Duterte, et al.”

Trump “Emboldens” Despots, Says CPJ

The CPJ board, headed the past five years by Sandra Mims Rowe, on Oct. 6 said CPJ was making an unprecedented foray into U.S. “politics” because “A Trump presidency represents a threat to press freedom unknown in modern history.” Said the statement:

“Since the beginning of his candidacy, Trump has insulted and vilified the press and has made his opposition to the media a centerpiece of his campaign. Trump has routinely labeled the press as ‘dishonest’ and ‘scum’ and singled out individual news organizations and journalists. Full text of the CPJ statement is here.

CPJ staffers at 2016 eventCPJ staffers at 2015 dinner

Alt-Left in Bed with Alt-Right

The Waldorf dinner, in which the alt-left (CPJ) is in bed with conservative and even alt-right companies, is a mirror image of Seminar, called “PR Seminar” until 2007, the annual four-day gathering of 200+ PR heads of blue chips and editors and publishers of leading media. Registration is $3,500. The 30-member executive committee meets throughout the year in New York.

No mainstream media ever write about Seminar. Editors who attend are sworn to secrecy. The 2016 Seminar was June 5-8 in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the 2017 meeting will be June 4-7 at The Breakers, Palm Beach. Among members is New York counselor Mike Paul who joined Publicis this month as head of communications for Publicis Media. He skipped the 2015 Seminar to protest lack of people of color in high PR posts.

The public’s view that the media and alt-left are in league together against traditional values held by mid-America is what drove the election of Trump. The right and alt-right don’t mind funding banquets of the alt-left because blue chips hold the purse strings and can yank them when needed.

Buffet for reportersBuffet for working press at CPJ dinner (photo: Jane Landers)

Since CPJ will now direct the attention of its 27-member New York staff (13 others work abroad) to policies that block press freedom in the U.S., it should look at its own restrictive policies that confine working press to the Waldorf balcony where they dine on potato chips, pretzels, cold cuts and soft drinks. CPJ does not want them to hear the undercurrent of disbelief that greets some CPJ speakers. CPJ, with $16.5 million in net assets before the Nov. 22 dinner, took in $1.75 million at the dinner.

Next CPJ chore would be looking at the restrictive press policies of the major PR groups including PR Society of America, Int’l Assn. of Business Communicators and Arthur W. Page Society, all of which bar press access to member lists. PRSA and IABC stopped publishing lists of members more than 10 years ago and won’t let press join. Such lists were very helpful to reporters. The three groups list individuals as members but almost all dues are paid by employers.

Reporters at CPJ dinnerReporters at CPJ dinner (photo: Jane Landers)

Kerry Paterson is senior advocacy and communications officer at CPJ. Samantha Libby and Gypsy Kaiser previously had the post. Paterson joined CPJ two years ago.

Favored press were allowed to the regular dinner on the Waldorf ballroom floor Nov. 22. An unidentified CPJ staffer tried to block O’Dwyer associate publisher/editor Jane Landers from going to the pre-dinner reception but Landers said she was properly invited and joined the function.

CPJ Asks Meeting with VP Pence

CPJ, despite its condemnation of Trump and the fact that much of the press, led by NYT, disdained and even ridiculed the Trump candidacy, has written to VP-elect Michael Pence asking for a meeting to discuss ways to “preserve First Amendment values in the U.S. and press freedoms around the world…”

Rowe told Washington Post public editor Margaret Sullivan Oct. 16 that Trump thinks media exist “only to satisfy his needs and give him publicity.”

NYT, breaking a tradition of not covering the CPJ annual banquet, assigned editorial board member Carol Giacomo

She noted that CPJ “usually focuses on the fight for press freedoms overseas” but this year, “throughout the presidential campaign, Donald Trump relentlessly excoriated and mocked journalists, fostering a hostile environment in which his supporters often joined in taunting and threatening the press corps.”

CPJ’s New U.S. Focus Is Needed

The shift of some of CPJ’s attention to the U.S. will fill a void if this promise is kept. Our attempts for years to connect with the staff have gone nowhere.

Executive director Joel Simon, refuses to visit the nearby O’Dwyer offices. No one would talk to an O’Dwyer staffer who went to the CPJ offices at 330 Seventh ave. at 29th st., 12 blocks away. CPJ staffers say they already have a full plate.

PRSA has barred reporters from seeing its membership list since 2006 after many years of giving them free copies of its printed directory. The Society’s last press conference by leaders was in 1993. Reporters were barred from its annual Assembly from 2012-2014.