Yesterday’s post about Obama “shunning” the DC press corpse for the G8 started a discussion in the comments about whether this was a wise strategy for the White House. I don’t know the long-term answer to that, but short-term, no harm done. Here’s the WSJ story, written in party by Elizabeth Williamson, the Journal reporter who was complaining about having to stay in Toronto. It’s mainly a re-write of the G8 communique with a few quotes.
This AP “color” report focuses on Obama sharing his helicopter with David Cameron, the seating arrangement of leaders, how everyone was talking about the World Cup, and the kind of beer Cameron and Obama drank. Somehow the reporter for that piece was able to get most of those juicy details without actually being there.
These two stories illustrate the simple fact that the corporeal presence of the DC press corpse isn’t really necessary. The reason reporters get so bent out of shape when they can’t be physically near the President is because they don’t want to be identified as an expensive anachronism. Since they’re mainly well-paid middlemen for packages released by the White House press office, they could most their job just as well from offices in the District, or in Bangalore.
In addition to tailing the President as he attends his kid’s soccer game, the daily duck-and-dodge of the White House press “briefing” is another expensive waste of time. An experienced operator like Gibbs, or even a lesser light like Dana Perino, just isn’t going to cough up news by accident. All the “real news” is leaked via unnamed sources who call their pet reporters.
The whole press conference exercise is actually corrosive to public confidence in the press and the White House. Reporters lose because they look ineffective, and the White House loses because they look like weasels as they duck the reporters’ questions.
Downsizing the elaborate, expensive White House Kabuki operation would probably be a net positive for everyone but the reporters who get to fly everywhere the President goes. That’s the dirty little secret behind stories venerating the sacred agreements between the press and the White House.