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Sunday, April 4, 2010

White Washed White House Press Corp

White Washed White House Press Corp
In America, the tradition of the free press is one of the foundations of our Republic.    And tough reporting, along the lines of the late Robert Novak, has been the job of the White House Press Corp.     And while every president has publicly stated the need for a free press and access to the White House, most have scrapped, fought and had their dust ups with the Washington press corp.
So, the White House trying to control the message, access to the President, and run a PR machine, this is nothing new.     However, in the world of Team Obama, access comes with a price: Your articles are favorable to the President, you get access, and even the opportunity to write a book.   And it helps if you don’t report, when that is to the advantage of the White House.   And if you take the gloves off, as did the late Robert Novak, well let’s just say that your access and insider info dries up, and maybe your press coverage is weakened by less sources and insider info.   
Let’s hear how the issue is laid out by Steve Clemons, in Washington Note in the April 2nd edition on line  
The communications team at the White House has an extremely difficult job -- and I admire how hard Ben Rhodes, Bill Burton, Tommy Vietor, and of course Robert Gibbs and others work to connect the President's policy direction with a communications effort that furthers the Obama agenda.
The role of the White House press corps is to engage this team and work on public's behalf to report not only on what they are fed by the communications team but what they are not.
There are good friendships between White House media and those they cover inside the White House -- but they can't be FRIENDS in the fullest sense. They are supposed to be rivals, wrestling over stories and the truth that is conveyed through the media to American citizens.
But an unhealthy pattern is developing in this White House -- a trend that may very well have been a part of other presidencies as well -- but what is happening today needs comment.
Some journalists seem to be putting their self-interest above their responsibilities to the public as well as their employers.
As Howard Kurtz and Glenn Greenwald have both commented, many White House correspondents and other top tier journalists want to write Obama books.
Anything with "Obama" on it is running at a huge premium in the book publication market.
But the kind of books that sell need "inside access" and this is something that the communications team at the White House doles out minimally, and increasingly, only when favors are part of the arrangement.
What I have learned after discussions over the last several days with several journalists who either have regular access to the White House or are part of the White House press corps is that there is a growing sense that access is traded for positive stories -- or perhaps worse, an agreement that things learned will not be reported in the near term.

The White House is working hard to secure deals that yield fluffy, feel good commentary about the Obama White House. One American White House reporter used colorful terms to describe the arrangement. The reporter said, "They want 'blow jobs' first [in the press sense]. Then you have to be on good behavior for a bit or be willing to deal, and then you get access."

About Steve and The Washington Note 
Greetings, and welcome to my website. During the days, I serve as Senior Fellow & Director, American Strategy Program, New America Foundation and, in my spare time, serve as Director of the Japan Policy Research Institute. I've also been encouraged by my great friend, Joshua Micah Marshall of  to start my own blog. So, connected here you will soon find  where I will more regularly comment on public policy debates that deserve attention.

So, Chicago style politics are the norm in this White House.    Insider deals, crony capitalism, behind the scenes pressure, and murky deal making are the norm in the world of Obama.  But can you blame the President?   It is all he has known.

©  2010, Four Corners Media, Jasper Welch  

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