Monday, March 11, 2013

The ennui of the White House reporter

In the endless Beltway media shuffle, former TPM mainstay Evan McMorris-Santoro has moved into Zeke Miller's old spot at BuzzFeed. Evan debuts with a look at why everyone hates the White House Beat.

Judging by these quotes from incoming WHPA president McClatchy's Steve Thomma, it sounds more like why the WHPC hates the Obama White House and possibly the readers:
A more pressing problem, Thomma said, is that the White House now looks at the rise of social media and sees a way to circumvent reporters to get their message out. Meanwhile, the televised briefings — which have become a daily D.C. Twitter staple — tempt journalists to make their names by asking provocative questions that might produce viral footage.

"One of the things that has definitely changed in the years I've been doing it is the televising of the briefings," he said. "It made the questioning by reporters part of a story. Much more so than it had ever been. So people started criticizing the questions and the way the questions were asked, regardless of what was in the the answers reporters were getting."
If by "provocative" he means "requests to verify stupid raging wingnut memes," and meaningless horserace questions, then yes, that's a big part of the problem. Press briefings have become little more than a rather desperate looking quest, mostly by media divas in the first row, for a gotcha moment to drive traffic to some manufactured controversy that does nothing to fully inform on the consequences of policy choices. Difficult not to notice the best questions generally come from the back rows.

I'm all for holding any White House accountable. However, I prefer the questions, and the ensuing stories, serve the public good rather than the great god of corporate profits. That is too rarely the case anymore. This is what happens when we allow our entire news chain to consolidate under the umbrella of six mega-corporations. Journalism by spreadsheet serves only the CEOs. Not healthy for the industry or the electorate.

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