Thursday, May 19, 2011


"You want to know what's wrong with the press? The press is what's wrong with the press."

So the Obama administration has banned more people from press events. Last time it was a San Francisco Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci who was banned for using new media to report on what the Obama administration demand be only "pen and paper" reporting. In reality, it was because she showed a video of protesters angry at President Obama on her website.

Now the Obama administration has significantly limited access to the entire Boston Herald newspaper. Why? Because the Herald ran a Mitt Romney editorial instead of news about Obama on its front page. “I tend to consider the degree to which papers have demonstrated to covering the White House regularly and fairly in determining local pool reporters,” said White House spokesman Matt Lehrich.

In other words: cover us to the degree and manner we like or you'll pay. Given how supportive and protective of president Obama the legacy media has been - even obeisant and worshipful in the past - its odd to watch the White House systematically turn them into foes. Will it work? At present organizations like the Herald are very angry with the president and how the White House is doing things.

There have long been complaints that the White House staff pressures and intimidates reporters to stop them from writing or saying things that upset the president. Had this been done by the Bush administration the screams would still be echoing about tyrants and the 1st amendment. With the Obama team, its a dull murmur between colleagues and an occasional piece by a less leftist reporter.

Old time reporters are pretty disappointed with the current crop of news people, complaining that they're too timid. Paul Bedard at USA Today writes of a group of long time reporters comparing the old time press conferences with today:
"If you watch an Obama news conference, and watched a Bush news conference previous to that, where correspondents sit in their seats with their hands folded on their laps, [it's] as if they are in the room with a monarch and they have to wait to be recognized by the president,"

Adds Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Haynes Johnson, "It's all very stale, very structured, very pale."
So these guys want it more unruly, aggressive, and even confrontational. Meanwhile President Bush had fewer news conferences than Clinton, and President Obama has fewer than Bush.

For politicians, the tone of reporting and the tendency of reporters to dig up the worst stories possible and run them gleefully (at least, about Republicans) rather than sitting on embarrassing news of decades past is making the politicians much less willing to be free and open with reporters.

The Obama team seems determined to control every single news piece that comes out down to the last piece of punctuation, sometimes to the point of filming their own news reports to hand to reporters.

And here's the thing: the reporters use them. Had the Bush White House tried this, they'd not only refuse to use them but rip them apart as propaganda and mock the president for even trying. President Obama routinely blocks out reporters at events, and while they quietly grit their teeth, they put up with it.

The big difference here is that reporters are less interested in doing their jobs than in helping their political allies win elections, so if that means sitting on or downplaying (or even spinning) a story that hurts Democrats, well that's what will have to happen. And if that means overplaying, hyping, and spinning a story that hurts Republicans, well they're lining up to do it. When the Democratic Party sends out a press release, that's a story that a reporter doesn't have to write; just find a place to insert it into the paper or new show.

Even these old time reporters didn't have any problem with the sycophantic reporting on President Obama, they just wanted things to be less respectful and orderly. One of them even used that absurd term "truth to power" which inevitably means "repeating leftist cant." When it comes down to politics, reporters can almost always be relied upon to ignore their journalistic instincts and the need to report the story as is.

In the end, nothing the Obama Administration can do will make a significant difference. These legacy media outlets may grumble and run a few disgruntled editorials, but when it comes down to election time, they'll choose Obama over any Republican. So whatever the Obama team does, they know that when it matters, the media will still be there for them, and they have nothing to lose by trying to rigidly control all reporting and shape it exactly how they prefer.

1 comment:

Philip said...

How the administration can get away with it in Boston is that the Herald is more centrist than its rival, the Globe.

Hence it's not only a tug at the press' leash, it also little gift to Massachusett's progressives.