Washington media veteran: Trump has made journalism's mission clear

The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The author works for the podcast.

Chicago (CNN)The White House assault on the "mainstream media" notwithstanding, the Trump era has presented an energizing, new moment for reporters covering politics in our nation's capital, said a veteran Washington journalist.

Jackie Calmes, who for decades covered government and politics for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, said for all the obstacles journalists face, the Trump era has reaffirmed the importance of the work they do.
"On the one level, while there's a trepidation among reporters who are having to cover (President Donald Trump) on a daily basis, it's also energizing because this is what we got into it for. There's a mission," Calmes told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," a podcast from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.
    While Calmes said she was concerned by the consequences of Trump's efforts to delegitimize the independent press, what worries her most is whether news organizations can grapple with the economic pressures of the digital age.
    "We haven't figured out how to make a good business out of this," Calmes said, pointing to shrinking advertising revenues and the shuttering of newspapers as the industry moves toward digital and away from print.
    Calmes, who credits her father with her decision to pursue a reporting career, recalled how his habit of reading the two newspapers that served her lower middle-class community in Toledo, Ohio, also now serves as a symbol for journalism's present challenges.
    "We thought the big problem back in the day was that cities were getting down to one newspaper," Calmes said. "Now we're worried about cities keeping the one they've got."
    Although she's covered three sitting presidencies, the Newt Gingrich era and many political campaigns during her nearly 40-year career in newspapers, Calmes said she's most fond of a story she wrote about a 5-year-old boy.
    The boy, Jacob Philadelphia, is the young African-American child in what is now an iconic photograph that captures him in the Oval Office touching the head of former President Barack Obama, who is bowing at the waist. Sensing a connection, Jacob had asked the President whether their hair felt the same.
    "I didn't know the story behind the picture, but to me it sort of captured something we had begun to take for granted with Barack Obama having been elected president, and that's the power of having a black man as president for a little black child," Calmes said.
    Recalling how she passed by that photo for two or three years as it remained a constant in the West Wing while the others that hung around it were replaced with more recent pictures, Calmes said, "I kick myself I didn't get to this story sooner."
    To hear the whole conversation with Calmes, click on http://podcast.cnn.com. To get "The Axe Files" podcast every week, subscribe at http://itunes.com/theaxefiles.