Froomkin was careful to blame the state of affairs not on individual press members—or even on press members in the aggregate—but rather to frame the problem as an institutional deficit. “The White House press corps is made up of terrific people who work hard under hard conditions,” he noted. But “the corporate structures of the modern newspaper hold back these very knowledgeable beat reporters from calling it like they see it.” So “the key is to free the people from these strictures.”

But that freedom had better come soon. “By playing it safe,” Froomkin said, “they’re making themselves irrelevant.”

Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.