"Now, watch this drive."
February 21, 2013 5:38 AM   Subscribe

Obama, DC Press Corps Locked In Mutual Loathing Pact. Mike Allen, of Politico, in his article Obama, The Puppet Master, said that Obama " has shut down interviews with many of the White House reporters who know the most and ask the toughest questions." John Cook (Gawker) replies: I will now tweet every question Politico's Mike Allen asked President George W. Bush during a May 2008 interview" (Screenshot)

More Tiger Beat On The Potomac Politico: "This Isn't About A Golf Game". In Brief: Politico's Article on Obama's Media "Manipulation" Lacks a Mirror.

Is Obama Being Too Mean To The White House Press Corps?
This weekend those tensions went public when the press corps learned of the president’s golf outing with Tiger Woods through a tweet by a Golf Digest writer who had access to the clubhouse at the Florida course where the president was playing. The White House press office seems to have circumvented the “pool” system whereby members of the White House press corps travel with the president to events and is kept informed of his whereabouts. The head of the White House Correspondents Association, Ed Henry, told Politico Monday night: "This is a fight for more access, period.... I've heard all kinds of critics saying the White House press corps is whining about a golf game and violating the president's privacy. Nothing could be further from the truth."

"We're not interested in violating the president's privacy. He's entitled to vacations like everyone else. All we're asking for is a brief exception, quick access, a quick photo-op on the 18th green," Henry continued. "It's not about golf — it's about transparency and access in a broader sense."
Play Of The Day - Golf And Transparency. Stephen Colbert asks hard-hitting questions about transparency (and golf).

Press Tries to Get Into Obama's Vacation Golf Club, But Is Denied. Obama Golfs With Tiger Woods, Shuts Out Press Corps. Obama on Woods: He's On Another Planet. Woods on Obama: "He hit the ball well and he's got a good touch".
posted by the man of twists and turns (89 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Now, photo-op this drive.
posted by box at 5:42 AM on February 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


To be fair "Mr President, what was your toast?" is not a question I'd call predictable.
posted by Mezentian at 5:44 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


"It's not about golf -- it's about transparency and access"

Bullshit.
posted by blucevalo at 5:46 AM on February 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


Nothing could be further from the truth.

Make this latin and it could be the motto of the white house press corp.
posted by srboisvert at 5:47 AM on February 21, 2013 [54 favorites]


They're crying about golf?
posted by Brian B. at 5:51 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Saw a segment about this on Rachel Maddow's show this week and she pointed out that the questions that actual people ask the president on forums like Reddit and G+ are way more substantial and policy oriented than the stupid questions that the press corp usually ask.
posted by octothorpe at 5:51 AM on February 21, 2013 [75 favorites]


Sure, we all want to know what the president is doing, but whether he chipped a shot on the 7th hole is not that big a deal. The media has created this supposed need to know each time the president farts and how it smelled. Then they try to sell the importance of it as justification of their feelings of butt-hurt when they don’t get invited into the presidential loo. The bottom line is that not everything needs to be reported and if not for the 24/7 punditry obsession, this would be the non-issue that it really is.

The media is crying like a bunch of spoiled, bratty children because they do not have reasons to entice advertisers, so they have created this new issue to complain about.
posted by lampshade at 6:06 AM on February 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


The Baffler puts the boot into Politico
But vetting the would-be vetters wasn’t really the point. No, the chin-stroking chastisements proffered under Allen and VandeHei’s byline served an infinitely more petty purpose than calling out the alleged pro-Obama bias of the press corps. Politico wanted only a pretext to tweak the Washington Post, which had, in Politico’s argot, just “won” the entire week with Jason Horowitz’s well-reported, deeply sourced profile of Romney. Politico doesn’t do anything close to long-form investigative journalism, and it was no doubt galling to split-second purveyors of microscoops Allen and VandeHei that the Post had somehow managed to dominate the conversation around the presidential campaign with a five-thousand-word character study that was not reducible to a Twitter punch line.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:07 AM on February 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


As the leading man in the 24 hour news cycle's hit drama, Obama is really being unfair by not allowing the press corps to film him every time he takes a dump.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:08 AM on February 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


God, I miss Helen Thomas.

This is about generating social capital through access to power, not about the use of social capital as a check on power. Fuck those self-absorbed mandarins and their running degradation of our national discourse.
posted by R. Schlock at 6:10 AM on February 21, 2013 [40 favorites]


I got the "Tiger Beat On The Potomac" from Charles P. Pierce:

Politico Gets Played
(Behind The Curtain is a regular feature of TBOTP. It is marked by the tendency of the two authors to print almost anything so long as it is said a) by a Republican operative, and b) anonymously. It is very much like a puppet show, except considerably less cerebral.)
Worst Politico Piece On Corporate Tax Rates
One of my primary criticisms of Tiger Beat On The Potomac has been that the entire enterprise has been dedicated totally to gossip, triviality, and Drudge-baiting to the exclusion of what's actually going on in the country to the people these politics are supposed to serve. Alas, today, the two presiding intellects of the publication put their watery heads together to discuss "bold" policy choices. I hereby take back everything I wrote in the former vein. If this is their idea of discussing policy, I wish to the god that gave me breath that they'd go back to who's zooming whom at some lobbying shop.
Jon Chait, at New York, has a slightly different take on that last one: Politico Accidentally Exposes Beltway Elite
Politico editors Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen today have published what may be the most revealing piece I have ever read about the Washington power elite. The value of the piece is almost entirely anthropological. That is to say, read at face value, it tells the reader almost nothing new. But examined as a cultural specimen, it offers profound insight. The piece reads as if it were written by Upton Sinclair, if he were taken prisoner and trying to smuggle messages out to the world past a particularly literal-minded group of censors.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:11 AM on February 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


“The way the president’s availability to the press has shrunk in the last two years is a disgrace,” said ABC News White House reporter Ann Compton, who has covered every president back to Gerald R. Ford. “The president’s day-to-day policy development — on immigration, on guns — is almost totally opaque to the reporters trying to do a responsible job of covering it. There are no readouts from big meetings he has with people from the outside, and many of them aren’t even on his schedule. This is different from every president I covered. This White House goes to extreme lengths to keep the press away.”

This George W. Obama guy is becoming more like his predecessor all the time. Wonder when he's gonna start clearing brush at the ranch?
posted by three blind mice at 6:14 AM on February 21, 2013


“What you guys call a document dump, we call transparency,” the White House’s Earnest shot back. If that’s the case, the White House was exceptionally transparent during the Solyndra controversy, releasing details three times on a Friday.

Places I've worked, I think we were more likely to finish something on a Friday than on any other day of the week. People would promise to deliver some tedious shit by the end of a certain week and then work on (or procrastinate over) that tedious shit until the unavoidable deadline Friday arrived, at which point it was deliver now or work Saturday.

So is the case here that White House staff stuck with delivering large piles of information to the press meet their deadlines and avoid having to work on weekends by squeezing it out late Friday? And this of course pisses off media people who will now have to work the weekend if they want to be first to publish something about it?
posted by pracowity at 6:18 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the press asked useful, probing and skeptical questions when they did have access I'd care about this issue a lot more. Also, I note they are whining about their own access but not doing much to help independent reporters get any access at all, let alone invited to golf games.
posted by DU at 6:18 AM on February 21, 2013 [17 favorites]


So who was Dubya's first round fantasy baseball pick?
posted by Spatch at 6:22 AM on February 21, 2013


Look, sheeple, there is a war on golfs going on. How can we freedom loving Americans be free without our press corps able to report on it!?

GOOGLE ARNOLD PALMER
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:24 AM on February 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


^ Actually if you pay close attention, you'll note that the fringe no longer command sheeple to Google anything since Google is an extension of the Left. Bing it!
posted by reformedjerk at 6:28 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


This George W. Obama guy is becoming more like his predecessor all the time. Wonder when he's gonna start clearing brush at the ranch?

Why are you upset that the political theatre is less pronounced these days? Previous presidents have trotted out boilerplate talking points at puppet shows, such were press events, delivered to people that they later attended cocktail parties with. There was never any "access" and even if there was it was never used to report anything other than what was expected in the days of cronyism. Now that we have the 24/7 spin constantly plastering us with a wall of talking heads to interpret every fart as if it were the riddles of the oracle, can you blame a public figure for trying to retreat and say nothing?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:31 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


srboisvert: "Nothing could be further from the truth."
Make this latin and it could be the motto of the white house press corp.


Nihil amplius a vero

(via Google, backtranslated for verification)
posted by hanoixan at 6:32 AM on February 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


If that’s the case, the White House was exceptionally transparent during the Solyndra controversy, releasing details three times on a Friday.

This is hardly a new strategy. So you're saying your reporting job is challenging?
posted by dry white toast at 6:34 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


"You guys are gonna miss me"

-G.W. Bush to Rep. Pelosi.
posted by clavdivs at 6:43 AM on February 21, 2013


The takeaway from the Pierce piece the man of twists and turns linked to:

The longer this goes on, the more depressed I get. Clearly, a deal on the economy is being cut with the minimal amount of input from the people on whom the weight of the deal will fall most heavily. Sacrifice is being parceled out by people who will feel none of it. And elite journalism is presenting this iniquitous arrangement from the point of view of the grifters and thieves who will profit most from it.

posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:46 AM on February 21, 2013 [20 favorites]


How dare the WH release so many photos through Flickr and give so many interviews to local media rather than to the WH Press corps, or speak directly with citizens and use modern forms of media to both deliver their message and invite direct involvement. I believe BO gave ~3 times as many interviews in his first term as did GWB. This whining is all about national figures in media having their erstwhile power as gatekeepers of Washington political information eroded. Fuck 'em.
posted by peacay at 6:48 AM on February 21, 2013 [23 favorites]


This George W. Obama guy is becoming more like his predecessor all the time.

Yeah, no.
posted by aught at 6:51 AM on February 21, 2013 [33 favorites]


The President used to be way more accessible to the press than recently, that's just a fact. Like that time JFK made that girl give his friend a blow job by the pool and all the reporters were like hi-five, Jack, you are the best, we love you.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:54 AM on February 21, 2013 [16 favorites]


That was kenny O' donnell mr oates, jack was getting the manicure.
posted by clavdivs at 6:56 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe the White House press corps needs to sit around, hold hands, and watch a few eipsodes of The West Wing to make themselves feel better.
posted by PuppyCat at 7:02 AM on February 21, 2013


G.W. Bush: "You guys are gonna miss me"
The US Electorate: "Umm, no"
posted by lampshade at 7:03 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


They're crying about golf?

I think the point, which Drum misses, is that the White House Press Corps feels it can put effective pressure on the president about openness here because it is something trivial. It's easy to explain ... there's solid precedent for this access, there's no possible security reason not to give it, and a photo spray on the first and the eighteenth hole is a pretty small imposition. If it was about drone strikes, the White House gets to go into high dudgeon about national security issues. As such, the trivial issue is a wedge that shows there culture of reducing access.
posted by Jahaza at 7:03 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I personally wish that the press corp could ignore the trivial issues, and find a better wedge. Otherwise, they're lowering themselves to US Magazine's "Stars are Just Like Us!" pieces.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:07 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did Bush ever claim he could drone-strike American citizens without due process?

Are you not familiar with the Bush doctrine?
posted by You Guys Like 2 Party? at 7:08 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


From "secret golf" to "drone strikes" in 31 comments.

You're right, Bush II was a more humanitarian president. Preventative war is just like preventative medicine, good for everyone.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:09 AM on February 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Obama’s Vacations? Of Any President, Bush Racked Up the Most
Calls to several Presidential libraries reveal that President Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, was on vacation more — 1,020 days — than any U.S. President since Herbert Hoover and possibly more than any other President in history.

Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was in office 12 years from 1933 to 1945, was on vacation less days than President Bush at 958 days. Calls to several Presidential Libraries reveal that no President can come close to Bush’s 1,020 days on vacation in an 8 year period. Even Lyndon Johnson, who spent 484 days at his ranch in Texas and at Camp David during his presidency, came in under Bush’s vacation time. Some claim the cost of Bush’s frequent trips to Crawford, Texas cost taxpayers upwards of $20 million, but the numbers are hard to confirm.

A recession started in 2001 as Bush took office after 22 million jobs were created during the Clinton Administration from 1993 to 2000. Bush began wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and presided over the loss of 4 million jobs. The debt when Bush left office was $10.6 trillion. In 2005, the Washington Post noted President Bush’s frequent vacations in a piece titled Vacationing Bush Poised to Set a Record as Bush took the longest single vacation — 5 weeks — of any President in 36 years.

President Bush spent 32% of his presidency on vacation.
...
President Obama has been on vacation 78 days from 2009 to 2011. At the three year mark into their first terms, George W. Bush spent 180 days at his ranch in Crawford, Texas and Ronald Reagan spent 112 vacation days at his ranch in California.
From a more recent piece on the history of US presidents and their vacation days, the tally for Obama's first four years is 131 days, or 32.75 per year. That's more than most working folk in the US, but most working folk aren't on call 24/7, and trying to manage the entirety of the United States one way or another, in a job that greatly ages most anyone who has held the position.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:18 AM on February 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


"We're not interested in violating the president's privacy. He's entitled to vacations like everyone else. All we're asking for is a brief exception, quick access, a quick photo-op on the 18th green,"

So he's NOT entitled to vacations like everyone else, and you ARE interested in violating his privacy.

I do not care which non-corporate/governmental person the president golfs with. Tiger Woods isn't, as far as I know, a lobbyist, just a dude famous for playing golf and cheating on his wife. If Obama wanted to say "Eff you guys, I'm golfin' with Tiger," to the press, the press can stuff it.

If the press wanted me to hate them and feel sympathetic to Obama not granting them access, this middle-school-level foofaraw is an excellent way to do so.
posted by emjaybee at 7:18 AM on February 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


An accredited White House correspondent can tell the straight story exactly one time. Then poof goes the access. So instead the White House press corps plays a game of asking softball questions in public, not naming sources, schmoozing, etc. Back in the days of three TV networks and profitable newspapers, a reporter could occasionally ask the tough questions. Today, it's too easy for the White House to do an end run around all the media. It's a lousy system. Any of your MeFites happen to have a better one handy? Seriously, can someone suggest a workable way that reporters can get through the barriers and bring back the information that the public deserves to know?
posted by Longtime Listener at 7:19 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously, can someone suggest a workable way that reporters can get through the barriers and bring back the information that the public deserves to know?

Well, let's start by defining what the pubic deserves to know.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:20 AM on February 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


From "secret golf" to "drone strikes" in 31 comments.

secret golf -> questions the press wants to ask
drone strikes -> questions the press should be asking
posted by DU at 7:21 AM on February 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


Does someone want to explain the the value of the White House press corps? Why is the White House going to deal with them when all they write is process stories, and not even good process stories?

"After the State of the Union, Carney and Furman were reminded that “the president in 2008 proposed raising the minimum wage to $9.50,” a full 50 cents higher than his current plan. “So are Americans able to get by on less now than they would be four years ago?” This and the question about legislative strategy were the only queries about the minimum wage all week."

Of course, the White House press corps look great compared to Politico. They seem to have a genetic defect making it impossible for them to question a premise.
posted by spaltavian at 7:21 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously, can someone suggest a workable way that reporters can get through the barriers and bring back the information that the public deserves to know?

1) Obtain a toy helicopter, outfit it with cameras and microphones, and follow the president around.

2) Negative psychology: Tell the White House you don't want to cover them anymore and wait for them to shower you with adulation

2) A lot of the so called barriers are self-imposed; a lot of these journos want to maintain the access and cozy, sexy lifestyle so they don't want to bite the hands that feed them. Hire journalists who care more about the truth than fame or book/movie deals or future administration jobs and you'd be amazed at what can be accomplished.
posted by Renoroc at 7:27 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, here's the question; does the White House *need* the press? I believe the answer is still yes, because the press still (mostly) controls the discourse. So if the press actually believed the White House would bar anyone who asked tough questions, why doesn't it band together to ask them, and if one gets banned, all leave? Don't they have some power, as an entity the White House needs to communicate with voters and the public?

Does the press care about the news, or about the elite status of the press corps?

I am not a journalist, so I am not being snarky here. If the WH only feeds pap, but needs the press, why doesn't the press leverage the power they have to get better information?
posted by emjaybee at 7:28 AM on February 21, 2013


That's more than most working folk in the US, but most working folk aren't on call 24/7

Most people aren't still working while on "vacation" either. Even while Bush "cleared brush" and Obama golfed with Tiger, they are still being followed around by a cadre of handlers and briefers and the football. Being on vacation for the President means going to a place like Hawaii and having your daily morning National Security briefing on the lanai while in board shorts in stead of in your private interior White House office.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:29 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


The optics were already pretty bad: As an estimated 40,000 plus climate activists descended on D.C. last Sunday to pressure the president to make good on his promise to address climate change, Obama was in Florida golfing privately with Tiger Woods. It appears that it gets worse: The president was not only teeing off with the famed golfer and philanderer, he was also, according to HuffPo, joined by a “pair of Texans who are key oil, gas and pipeline players.”

I think I forgot what was supposed to be outrageous about covering this golf game.
posted by gerryblog at 7:31 AM on February 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


If the WH only feeds pap, but needs the press, why doesn't the press leverage the power they have to get better information?

Because they will always take the pap. It's the same reason there are headlines about the Kardashians instead of people with talent and/or brains. The press are a bunch of papaholics.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:32 AM on February 21, 2013


Hire journalists who care more about the truth than fame or book/movie deals or future administration jobs and you'd be amazed at what can be accomplished.

I would indeed be amazed. It's not like they can just barge into the Oval Office and pound on the president's desk for answers. No one with any real power in the administration has to say one word to the press if they don't want to.
posted by Longtime Listener at 7:36 AM on February 21, 2013


joined by a “pair of Texans who are key oil, gas and pipeline players.”

How do we know he wasn't suggesting they figure out something better than Keystone? I would think this sort of meeting would go a lot better in an informal setting. Of course, we'll never know because there wasn't a drone secretly taping the meeting (unless Obama is a lot more Nixonian than we ever suspected).
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:37 AM on February 21, 2013


No one with any real power in the administration has to say one word to the press if they don't want to.

"You may think that. I couldn't possibly comment."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:37 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


How do we know he wasn't suggesting they figure out something better than Keystone?

Isn't it pretty to think so?
posted by gerryblog at 7:42 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


R. Schlock: "God, I miss Helen Thomas."

Her presence would not matter. It didn't when this happened last time. She was made effectively useless by similar tactics by the previous administration in the press room. Bush's press secretaries stopped calling on her, and on the rare occasions when they did, they obfuscated, didn't answer her questions and then didn't allow her follow-up questions. Or, they made fun of her from the podium and then didn't answer her questions.

That didn't have to be a problem, but the White House press corps seems to be made up of cowards, worried more about losing access than their duty to the American people to ask tough questions and hold Presidential administrations accountable. The press could have shown some esprit de corps, as it were, and re-asked her questions when the Press Secretary didn't initially answer. But journalists who piss off the White House press secretary lose exclusive access. So they chose not to.
posted by zarq at 7:52 AM on February 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


No one with any real power in the administration has to say one word to the press if they don't want to.

So the WH doesn't actually need the press? How would they promote themselves or signal things to their constituents? How would they shape their image w/ no press access?

It does seem like the press has some leverage here to me, just that they choose not to use (or are prevented from using) it.
posted by emjaybee at 7:54 AM on February 21, 2013


Seldom is the question asked: is there enough normal-sized people?
posted by ShutterBun at 7:54 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Doesn't the press corp complain about every POTUS these decades?
posted by clvrmnky at 7:56 AM on February 21, 2013


There are three types of stories you can be damned sure the media will give time and attention to:

1) Situations where media privilege is seems threatened, real or not. They like to whine about not being invited to cool kids table.
2) Their freedom of speech is tangentially affected, intentionally or not.
3) A person who reports on the news is harmed in the line of doing their job.

I really only have patience for the second case and loathe the first one. The white house press corp is a moribund institution that needs a swift kick in the pants. That they belly ache about not getting access to cover a golf game just illustrates the lack of substance in their mission.
posted by dgran at 7:57 AM on February 21, 2013


I really only have patience for the second case and loathe the first one.

The Fourth Estate will be the first to tell you how indispensable and necessary they are.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:00 AM on February 21, 2013


Glenn Greenwald has a characteristically acerbic take on this:
"David Axelrod, the former White House senior advisor and senior strategist for President Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns, has joined NBC News and MSNBC as a senior political analyst, the networks announced today..."

Impressively, David Axelrod left the White House and actually managed to find the only place on earth arguably more devoted to Barack Obama. Finally, American citizens will now be able to hear what journalism has for too long so vindictively denied them: a vibrant debate between Gibbs and Axelrod on how great Obama really is...

Notably, these "frustrated" White House journalists now complaining about a lack of "transparency" aren't objecting to Obama's concealment of multiple legal documents which purport to authorize radical powers he claims or to his war on whistleblowers. Instead, they're objecting that the White House doesn't "cooperate" with them enough (Obama officials release official photos and quotes through social media rather than to reporters) and they don't get to see the president enough or sit with him for interviews.
posted by koeselitz at 8:04 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Isn't it pretty to think so?

And so pretty to think not if that's your worldview. Maybe they talked about golf. The fact remains we will probably never know what they talked about. I'm not so naive to think that backroom dealing is always (or even often) in the people's favor, but sometimes it is, even if that doesn't fit the concept that the cabal is always out to get more from the masses.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:14 AM on February 21, 2013


Haven't generally all the major White House news story breaks come from leaks and confidential informants? It seems when any White House engages directly with the press corp it's for the express purpose of pushing its own agenda and to control the story. The things that the White House tries to hide, a la Watergate as the primary example, did not feed out from the West Wing press room. So...color me skeptical that we, the people of the United States, are somehow harmed by the lack of official access, when it's the unofficial and covert communications that seemed to have had the greatest impact.
posted by Atreides at 8:17 AM on February 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Atreides: "Haven't generally all the major White House news story breaks come from leaks and confidential informants?"

Scandals, yes.

But most stories related to the administration, and in particular stories about WH policy initiatives and military actions authorized by the President, develop after news is released by the White House.

For example, we didn't learn about the details of the ACA (Obamacare) from an informant. And during times of war, we often learn breaking news details from the White House press room, not from a Pentagon leak.
posted by zarq at 8:30 AM on February 21, 2013


I don't think the White House Press Corps realizes how much damage they did to their own image by giving Fox News a seat in the Press Room like it was a REAL news entity. Now, Roger Ailes is influencing every reporter in the room, no matter how "liberal". And Ailes loves drones and hates golf.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:35 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


we didn't learn about the details of the ACA (Obamacare) from an informant

Why would an Act of Congress be the responsibility of the White House press corps?

And during times of war, we often learn breaking news details from the White House press room, not from a Pentagon leak.

We often get the official version of details from the White House, actual on-the-ground details come from war corrispondents. My Lai and Abu Ghiraib certainly didn't come out in a press breifing.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:35 AM on February 21, 2013


I have this memory, possibly false, that reporters looked for news stories, and investigative mavens dug up the subtle stuff. Ambulance chasers and scandal mongers worked for the lesser magazines. You know. Some guys were good at human-interest stories, but those weren't considered news, and were often more like a Norman Rockwell painting than a news story.

Nowadays the WH Press Corps seems to be a bunch of assholes who go sit in a room and email handouts. Reporters are talking heads reading transcripts that annotate the latest clip from You Tube. The ones who go to the field and take note are given a few sound bites now and then, but the networks get only so much air-time between commercials.

Now, let's compare Obama and B43. No, please, let's don't.

Fah.

Show me the cat pictures.
posted by mule98J at 9:37 AM on February 21, 2013


The thing to keep in mind is that the journalists are English majors. They have a talent for writing. The know nothing about statistics or probability or mathematics or biology or ecology or economics or physics or medicine or any of the other things that have to do with real policies that affect our lives. They don't know the difference between real and nominal interest rates. They don't know the difference between mean and median. They don't understand the physics of climate or energy. They don't understand how taxation works, about marginal vs effective tax rates, income distribution or even orders of magnitude. There're English majors. They have a valuable talent for telling stories and creating drama. They know who's up and who's down. Who sits at the cool kid's table and who doesn't. They dutifully report what he said and she said. Other than story telling they are pretty much worthless for reporting public policy issues.
posted by JackFlash at 9:41 AM on February 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


For example, we didn't learn about the details of the ACA (Obamacare) from an informant.

In fact, we didn't learn much about the ACA at all, what we heard was mainly the opposition's take on the ACA, delivered in sound bites, and the myths and lies that generated still continue...apparently because the press finds it just too hard to explain a complicated and extensive piece of legislation.

Do you wonder why Obama doesn't care much for the press?
posted by tommyD at 9:44 AM on February 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I feel like quoting Greenwald in any thread on any topic automatically constitutes a derail.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:49 AM on February 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


The thing to keep in mind is that the journalists are English majors.

Really? All of them?
posted by Aizkolari at 9:50 AM on February 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


The thing to keep in mind is that the journalists are English majors. They have a talent for writing.

I thought they were largely Journalism majors, thus the lack of writing ability.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:53 AM on February 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


I was an English major and I know the difference between mean and median. I don't really know why you have this idea that people can only know the one thing they got a degree in. I mean, I'd ask a scientist, but he probably doesn't know how to type, so
posted by shakespeherian at 9:54 AM on February 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


Could we skip the "We could live in Utopia if the STEM majors were in charge" derail?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:55 AM on February 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


This "secret golf" stuff is such old news anyways...
posted by vonstadler at 10:04 AM on February 21, 2013


The 10th Regiment of Foot: " Why would an Act of Congress be the responsibility of the White House press corps?"

It was a policy initially conceived, drafted (in part) and lobbied for by the Obama administration. When a major legislative change is aggressively being pushed for by one branch of our government, it should most certainly be the press' responsibility to report on it. Especially since this was a law created to address public needs.
posted by zarq at 10:10 AM on February 21, 2013


The thing to keep in mind is that the journalists are English majors.

Rubbish, said a Poly Sci major and former reporter who worked with scads of colleagues who majored in the areas they wanted to cover.
posted by ambient2 at 10:13 AM on February 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


JackFlash: "The thing to keep in mind is that the journalists are English majors."

This isn't true of many journalists, especially when you look at those who specialize in a particular field.

Many political reporters did not major in English. They majored in political science or a related field. Most science, health and medical journalists majored in a science or medical field in college. I've probably worked with a few hundred of those over the years, and it's rare that they didn't have a background in science. Science/Technical/Medical journalism especially, really does require that the reporter have more than a superficial understanding of the topics being covered. Many medical journalists are med school dropouts, but some actually did get their doctorates.
posted by zarq at 10:23 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Back in the day, Connie Chung gave some decent advice to would be journalists at Harvard on what major makes for the best journalist:
Chung encouraged students interested in pursuing a career in news reporting to choose a broad academic focus rather than exclusively studying journalism.

"[It is] much more important to major in English, History and Political Science...[but still] minor in journalism and broadcasting" Chung said.

Chung also encouraged the pursuit of ethnic studies, a department that many students at Harvard have been working to initiate.
posted by vonstadler at 10:27 AM on February 21, 2013


Time for someone to create a real life Slugline.com
posted by Apocryphon at 10:59 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


JackFlash, like shakespeherian, I am an English major, and I know what all those things are. We are not the Other.
posted by JHarris at 11:43 AM on February 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Politico Crybabies Sent Back to Crib After Calling Obama 'the Puppet Master'

Things In Politico That Make Me Want To Guzzle Antifreeze, Part The Infinity
posted by homunculus at 12:38 PM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have been a journalist for two decades (award-winning!), and my degree was in religious studies and then theater.

Of course, the one chance I got to cover the president, I spent the entire time on Twitter, pretending that I was confused and that this was actually a concert by Minnesota singer-songerwriter Jeremy Messersmith, who was playing the event, and complaining that he didn't play long enough, the seats weren't facing him, and nobody was paying attention to him. When Obama finally showed up, I tweeted OH MY GOD WHAT IS OBAMA DOING HERE.

Nobody really paid attention except for Messersmith's wife, who had patiently been trying to tweet back at me what was really going on. At this, she tweeted back to me "You are an idiot" and ignored me for the rest of the event.

And yet I still think I'm better at this than a lot of people in the White House press corps.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:14 PM on February 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


The thing to keep in mind is that the journalists are English majors. They have a talent for writing. The know nothing about statistics or probability or mathematics or biology or ecology or economics or physics or medicine or any of the other things that have to do with real policies that affect our lives.

This right here? This is not even remotely true. I've been a journalist for 15 years. I have a history degree. Also did a year and a half of a business degree but didn't like it. I have met some journalists with English degrees. I've met more with history and political science and biology degrees. I've met more with law degrees. I've met many, many more with a journalism diploma from a tech college or community college. The largest category of journalists I've met though are the ones whose education background is unknown to me because it's wholly irrelevant to their competence as journalists.

There are hacks in this profession, but it has nothing to do with what they studied in undergrad. In general, the closer you get to a power centre -- the White House or Parliament, Wall Street or Bay Street, a national broadcaster or the op-ed page of a major national newspaper -- the higher the hack quotient. Those jobs tend in my experience to attract ambitious, ruthless, preening, networking strivers.

Because the good journalists are more interested in telling good stories and doing solid reporting than in ingratiating themselves to powerful people who can further their careers, you don't see as much of them as TV talking heads or in the White House press corps. Some know their beats as well or better than the people they report on. Medical reporters obviously aren't often doctors and science reporters don't do peer-reviewed science, but they see a whole broad swath of the field, not just one cloistered corner. Lots are generalists, moving from beat to beat on each assignment, and the good ones know to ask questions when they don't know something and do their homework to fill in the knowledge gaps.

Again, this doesn't get you a plum gig asking meaningless questions to heads of state and nodding seriously at their vacuous answers, but it is what good journalists do, and it hasn't got a good goddamn thing to do with what they studied in undergrad.
posted by gompa at 1:27 PM on February 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


The WH Press Corp isn't really engaging in journalism, at least in the sense of ferreting out a story, tracking it and doing any kind of evaluative investigation. They're just regurgitating press releases from the White House and at this point, with the tools available, the White House doesn't need them to do that anymore. They don't need ABC News, they have YouTube, they don't need the NYTimes, they have Tumblr. The fault of that isn't the WH, it's the press corp itself; so they're just whining about their own planned obsolescence. I don't believe the kind of journalism I wish went on in Washington - real investigative, long-form work - isn't going to come from anyone with a press pass to the WH because they're too chicken-shit to loose it by doing the kind of work that would piss off those who offer it up.
posted by marylynn at 2:43 PM on February 21, 2013


But the point stands--most journalists who cover Washington don't know fuck-all about public policy, and they can't be bothered to learn it, either. Rather, they exist as though perpetually stuck in junior high--obsessed only with who is currently popular, and how they might get to spend time with them.

It's been interesting to watch Ezra Klein try to avoid the borg here. He's a policy guy, but it's clear that he feels the tractor beam of the kewl kids. (Just look at his piece on Alan Simpson he just wrote. He sticks the knife into the press corps, but can't quite finish the kill.)
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:59 PM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are good, knowledgeable journalists, but the topic of discussion are the Washington press corps. These are the journalists, print and TV, who are making hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars a year. Think of the people you see on Sunday TV or in the Times and Washington Post. Almost none of them know anything at all about the topics they write on -- the budget, taxes, debt, health care, the environment, etc. Journalists are supposed to inform but these people simply relate he said, she said, who's winning who's losing. They simply don't understand their topics to any depth so they just talk the horse race.

And poli sci as a background for journalism? Well, if all you are interested in is the power and mechanics of politics and who's winning and why, I suppose. Anything else of real policy substance, not so much.
posted by JackFlash at 5:18 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Journalists are supposed to inform but these people simply relate he said, she said, who's winning who's losing. They simply don't understand their topics to any depth so they just talk the horse race.

Congratulations on identifying everyone else's complaint.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:24 PM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


"You guys are gonna miss me"

-G.W. Bush to Muntadhar al-Zaidi
posted by Smedleyman at 5:54 PM on February 21, 2013


Someone needs to make a website called ReporterOrRedditor.com. You get presented with real side by side quotes, and much choose which one was asked by a reporter, and which was asked by a random forum member of Mefi, Reddit or whatever.
posted by Decimask at 6:25 PM on February 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod, that sounds awesome. I never know when people are doing those kinds of things.
posted by JHarris at 7:18 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


JackFlash: And poli sci as a background for journalism? Well, if all you are interested in is the power and mechanics of politics and who's winning and why, I suppose. Anything else of real policy substance, not so much.

Did you even this about this for a second before you posted? How would a Political Science program at an university focus on the horse-race? What would the tests be on?

Political Science curricula focus on policy, policy analysis, political theory and (in the US) American political history. Some programs have an international relations/comparative politics track; my program had a fairly robust empirical analysis component (statistics, the science of polling, demographics, how to measure policy effectiveness). I only had a few optional courses in undergrad that dealt with the mechanics of politics and electioneering, and that was mostly the nuts and bolts of local campaigns.
posted by spaltavian at 8:22 PM on February 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Decimask, do we get to see the name by which the asker was identified? Because I don't think we'll even need the quotes - although if they get presented afterwards, it could be embarrassing for the reporters to ask worse questions than penusguy69.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:23 PM on February 21, 2013


Robert Gibbs Admits He was Told to Act as if Drone Program did not Exist
posted by homunculus at 1:09 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jon Stewart Bashes Robert Gibbs For MSNBC Gig, Flippantly Admitting He Lied On Drones
posted by homunculus at 4:50 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Politico: Missed chance: Obama’s tax problem
I’m waiting for my dinner invitation,” the Republican joshed to Obama, referring to the president’s recent evening out with Republican senators. “I listen to Paul,” Obama replied, according to McCarthy, referring to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. Then, in what McCarthy took as a reference to a political charm offensive, he recalled Obama saying, “You guys give us too much credit. We’re not doing all that stuff you think we are.” As told by McCarthy, Obama then said that if Republicans are going to get entitlement reform, “You need me.” As McCarthy walked away, the congressman thought: “He’s still a law professor. He’d rather lecture you and put a red mark on your paper than talk to you.”
Gee, thanks VandeHei and Allen.

Mother Jones: Presidential Schmmozing Really Isn't The Issue Here Folks
But when you get to the tail end of the column, they finally tell us the real impediment to some kind of grand bargain that raises taxes and cuts entitlements:
...The prevailing view among House Republicans is that they have finally won the cuts they spent years fighting for and see little reason to tick off senior voters by cutting entitlements while also ticking off the base with new taxes.
Crackerjack reportage from Tiger Beat On The Potomac.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:55 AM on March 13, 2013


« Older Listen to Gollum sing "I Dreamed a Dream"....  |  Dustincropsboy's first (and ho... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments