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Friday, January 23, 2009

Keeping the Press Happy

Keeping the Press Happy

As posted in an earlier Four Corners Media blog (January 12th), the love affair with the legacy media and the Obama “spin the news” team was bound to be tested.    The event that had White House orchestrated media control was the reenactment of the President’s swearing in.   Only a selected few in the media attended, and no live video or audio was allowed from the press pool.    The White House press corps membership is composed of the elite reporters of the Legacy Media, many of them being groomed for featured news anchor jobs or new programs by their news

You’ll note that the WHPC site has a window “Obama Administration Twitter Coverage” built into the lower part of the home page.

            Here is the view from the Politico  on the media frustration with team Obama this first week in office.

            A growing media frustration with Barack Obama’s team spilled into the open at Thursday’s briefing, with reporters accusing the White House of stifling access to his oath re-do and giving Obama’s first interview as president to a multi-million dollar inauguration sponsor. 

Veteran CBS newsman Bill Plante was one of the most vocal critics, questioning the White House’s handling of Wednesday night’s second swearing in – which was covered by just a four-reporter print pool that didn’t include a news photographer or TV correspondent. 

He also asked new press secretary Robert Gibbs why ABC, which paid millions to host the DC Neighborhood Ball, was granted the only inauguration day interview with President Obama – a move he equated to “pay to play.” 

“We have a tradition here of covering the president,” said Plante, who is covering his fourth administration.

            Later in the day, the Obama team was scrambling to get the dance steps right with the White House press corps.   The Prez himself made a surprise visit to the cramped rooms the media works out of reporting on the White House beat.

            President Obama made a surprise visit to the White House press corps Thursday night, but got agitated when he was faced with a substantive question. 

Asked how he could reconcile a strict ban on lobbyists in his administration with a Deputy Defense Secretary nominee who lobbied for Raytheon, Obama interrupted with a knowing smile on his face. 

"Ahh, see," he said, "I came down here to visit. See this is what happens. I can't end up visiting with you guys and shaking hands if I'm going to get grilled every time I come down here."

            Welcome to Washington DC and your new role as the President of the United States.   Team Obama is trying to make the shift from an image building campaign and sanitized press relationship to the rough and tumble of a national press corps looking for stories, not photo ops.  If you watched or heard former President Bush’s last news conference, these legacy media reporters play for keeps.   And Team Obama is being welcomed into their world.  

            It is a dance, between the media (4th estate) and the President (POTUS 44) that is being ironed out and played out in the public eye.  Historically, the POTUS and the White House Press Corps have had hot and cold relationships.   Each president handles the press differently, including setting up an Office of the Press Secretary that will conduct daily briefings with the media.   But every reporter is at the White House to ask questions of the President.    That is when the real news happens.

 © 2008, Jasper Welch, Four Corners Media,

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