If you don’t know that reference, that is the name that Charlie Pierce has given to the execrable Politico. And it also means that you aren’t reading Charlie Pierce on the regular, which you really must start doing. Anyway, they are having a snit about the access that the Obama Administration does not give to the White House Press Corps. This after the same Press Corps has been whinging about not being able to cover the President while he golfs with Tiger Woods. All of this without getting the irony that they are spending more energy in complaining about the President not hanging around to joke with them than they are in explaining any sequester replacement plans. Or maybe climate change policy.
Frankly, lots of bloggers have been all over this, and mostly, Kevin Drum speaks for me. I don’t have any sympathy for these folks whose tough questions sound like high schoolers testing the boundaries of a clique — “Mr. President, Senator McConnell has called you a doodyhead today — how do you respond to that?” is about the level of questioning that I see, really.
I wish I knew what to think about this. Does Obama keep a very, very tight rein on press coverage? Yes, he sure seems to. In fact, every president seems to keep a slightly tighter grip on the reins than the previous one. I’m not very happy about that.
At the same time, the reporters interviewed for this piece seem to be weirdly upset over the fact that the Obama White House uses Twitter and Facebook and releases lots of its own photos. Why is this a problem? It’s 2013, guys. Why shouldn’t a president communicate with the public using whatever mediums the public happens to consume? Over the past century, that’s evolved from whistle-stop tours to radio to TV to Facebook, but so what? Why should reporters be unhappy about this?
They also complain that although the president gives lots of interviews (674 in his first term compared with 217 for George Bush), they’re mostly with local outlets, not with the national reporters “who are often most likely to ask tough, unpredictable questions.” I’d have more sympathy for this if national reporters really did ask lots of tough, unpredictable questions, but I’m afraid I’m mostly on Obama’s side on this one:
The president’s staff often finds Washington reporters whiny, needy and too enamored with trivial matters or their own self-importance….Obama and his team, especially newly promoted senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, often bemoan the media’s endless chase of superficial and distracting storylines.
Charlie Pierce gives this bit of business the deconstructing it deserves, this piece focusing on Politico’s odd complaint that the Obama White House is making full use of the technology available to it:
The grammar in that second sentence went briefly to the zoo, but I think they’re saying that the White House has more technology and that the media companies have fewer resources. (Something with which TBOTP has had some recent experience, and one might also mention that “media companies” often are struck stupid by cowardice when confronted by candidates who don’t even win. This also contributes to the aforementioned imbalance of power. We continue.) And this is a surprise to approximately nobody who’s watched as the clowns who run America’s newspapers cratered the industry over the past 20 years. If these guys are really making the case that “do more with less” doesn’t work, let them start with overseas bureaus, and not the various loungers in the White House press corps.
Besides my usual eye-rolling about the White House Press talking about mostly silliness, this really is another part of the overall story about how the media comes to grips with the fact that we all have more access to information than ever before. I can safely bypass whatever the WH Press is doing because I have access to other venues who are working on talking to me about policy and issues. And no matter how much info the White House makes available on its own website (which really is alot if you have time to sort through it), you can’t make the mistake of thinking that all of that data isn’t subject to its own shaping by whoever does that in the White House. It would be awesome if the WH Press could tell you that, but they are too busy pouting about not being on a golf trip. Still — if I had the choice between reading Politico for WH news vs. sifting through the WH’s own data, i”m going to do the latter. The horserace BS that Politico specializes in is useful to the company townies, the aspirants to be company townies and the hinterlands journalists who think that the Politico brand means something.
But here is the best thing out there about this new bit of journalists stamping their feet — John Cook from Gawker took a look at the last interview that Mike Allen (of Politico) did with a President, then he tweeted out the questions that Mike Allen asked of GW Bush in 2008. Go see what counts as hard-hitting questions and tough followups. Seriously.