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Spreading light, not heat: Acosta no hero to me in Trump dust-up

True confessions: news conferences are one of my least-favorite things.

Newsmakers in this region seldom make agricultural news with them. In this market, they are a tool to get competitors to hear political advertisements, or collectively learn of business announcements that could/should be handled with press releases.

On the rare occasion when news conferences truly are important, these events aren't for the shy.

My first political press conference was in the summer of 1979 or 1980. I was working for the The Globe of Worthington, Minn., before it was owned by Forum Communications. The event was in a hotel conference room with James "Jim" Williams, deputy secretary of agriculture in the Jimmy Carter administration. Williams was a statesman-like southern gentleman—a citrus and cattleman from Florida. I wrote out a set of what I considered important policy questions, but—I thought, politely—wanted to wait until until other reporters had asked their questions first.

The deputy secretary's assistant abruptly ended the the event before I asked a question. I followed Mr. Williams into the men's room and asked my questions by the wash basin.

Both out of line

The recent conflict between CNN's Jim Acosta and President Donald Trump should be embarrassing for both parties. And worse.

Chuck Raasch, a 1976 South Dakota State University journalism graduate, and national correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, formerly national correspondent for USA TODAY and columnist for Gannett News Service, recently shared a Facebook post in which he argued that Acosta's pass should not have been pulled, but that Acosta also was out of line.

I strongly agree on both counts.

"This was not a case where a reporter didn't get a chance to ask a question; this was a case where a reporter stated debatable assertions, then didn't like answers to multiple questions that followed, and refused to give up a mic," Raasch wrote in a recent Facebook post. "This was a reporter who prefaced his remarks with a warning that he was going to challenge Trump, knowing that some kind of fireworks were bound to follow based on their personal history of animus."

For my money, both behaved badly—Acosta for the self-aggrandizement so tiresome in national TV media, and Trump as a way to underline his hatred for media that don't fawn on him. Raasch noted that Yaimiche Alcindor (White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour) asked a tough question, without opinion and not as showboat.

Personalities like Acosta are one reason I've never subscribed to cable TV. I don't like the incessant, redundant news cycle in which commentators see themselves as the main event. Similarly, I don't take the time to watch sports games. (I still have a yard, hunting dogs, a canoe. a fishing rod, a family. And books.)

Trip to the zoo

Just to stay somewhat in touch with the pop-news scene, I watch a variety of outlets when I'm on the road in hotels. It's like a trip to the zoo. Often the networks with "news" in the title are more commentary, masquerading as news. Commentary is often speculative, and often laced with agendas that are not apparent or disclosed to the viewer. With few exceptions, my national and international news menu is consumed once-daily, with weekly commentary summaries.

Acosta would love it that I and many people now know his name.

Raasch warns that the CNN lawsuit could do long-range damage to the rest of the White House press corps if the network and its amicus allies (including right-leaning FOXNews) lose. Trump could be further emboldened to pick and choose among the many credentialed CNN reporters, for example. That would be terrible for democracy.