Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The White House Press Corps' Free Milk

I've known for a while now that the White House press corps is rather unhappy with the level of access the Obama administration gives them. Politico's story is hardly the first one on the subject, as the reporters have been visibly grumpy since around 2011. There's an important lesson about incentives here if you read carefully. Note this sentence:

The president has shut down interviews with many of the White House reporters who know the most and ask the toughest questions. Instead, he spends way more time talking directly to voters via friendly shows and media personalities. Why bother with The New York Times beat reporter when Obama can go on “The View”?

To ask this question is to answer it. The New York Times overwhelmingly prints positive coverage about the Obama administration. Coverage prior to the 2012 election was especially glowing. They kept mum on Fast and Furious, ignored Benghazi, and chided Republicans for thinking Solyndra was anything other than completely on the up-and-up. What can Obama possibly gain from giving an interview? It's all risk and no reward. The NYT already gives the administration everything it wants in terms of positive coverage, so the only possible thing to come out of an interview is a reporter asking a question that makes the WH representative stumble.

If the press wanted access, they'd have to punish the White House for ignoring them and reward it for paying attention to them. For example, if the NYT had been hard-hitting on the aforementioned stories, perhaps the White House would have been interested in a chance to tell its side of the story. Twitter and social media are great ways to spread memes and images, but not to tell stories. Fortunately for Obama, journalists are trained in college to see the promotion of left-wing causes and narratives ("social justice") as their primary duty. And after two narrow wins by George W Bush, they feel a deep responsibility to do everything they can to ensure no Republican wins an election if they can help it. 

The result is that the 21st-century establishment press is going to tell a story that benefits a Democratic White House regardless of anything the administration does. Why on earth would a halfway intelligent President do anything to interfere with that?


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