Communications Corruption at the White House

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white house marine one.jpg
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.
robert-gibbs.jpgThe 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.”
“Axe” and “Gibbs” know who needs access to get their books pushed forward.
They know who will pay for play — and are taking notes on who has been naughty and nice in their reporting.
Edward Luce, Washington Bureau Chief of the Financial Times, who has been one of the few to resist the ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ offers from the White House has found himself in a dust-up with the White House for his recent article co-authored with Daniel Dombey, “US Foreign Policy: Waiting on a Sun King“.
Luce was given access to one senior official for the piece, but because Luce reported that National Security Adviser Jim Jones may be on his way out and that Obama’s national security team lacks a top tier strategic thinker — other than Obama himself perhaps — Luce has been pummeled by the White House who think he violated a quid pro quo deal to do a fluff story in exchange for access.
Luce reported to me, “The FT never does these kind of deals. ”
Frankly, Luce’s piece provides an accurate snapshot of the Obama-dependent decision making structure in the White House. Most I have spoken to see the Luce article as well-structured, almost conventional view of what is going on inside. Luce paints a positive picture of several of the key players — including NSC Chief of Staff and Obama confidante Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and others.
One senior Obama administration official — with excellent inside access — reported to me that he agreed with virtually everything in the Luce article. The one critique this person shared with me is that Luce “understated Donilon’s role and overstated Jim Steinberg’s.”
Maybe this is the way communications is done, but the process is not healthy.
The White House needs to go back and look at the conflict-of-interest riddled Fannie Mae in which public interest and private gain got stewed together and undermined the interests of American citizens.
This kind of thing can blow up. On the other hand, these trends can easily be turned around.
The White House needs to do its part and provide access based on the merits of high quality, even hard-hitting analysis and reporting, not on seduction.
But the White House Correspondents Association would be smart to consider “best practices” for its members who are simultaneously reporting inside the White House and also dreaming of future best-selling Obama epics.
– Steve Clemons

Comments

78 comments on “Communications Corruption at the White House

  1. James says:

    Anyone can sell their soul to satan, it’s JESUS whom they must face in the end. The person in the oval office came about out of nowhere. He’s not valid.
    Impeachment is the only avenue.
    John McCain & Sarah Palin should be appointed.
    The damage the current admin has inflicted on innocent America is unforgivable.
    Tears in the eyes of the Statue of Liberty.

    Reply

  2. FredJS says:

    So the White House wants to manipulate the news to their advantage? Hasn’t that been business as usual for every administration? What is new is that now the press corps finds it perfectly well and good when it comes from “their” president.

    Reply

  3. Colony14Author says:

    Clemons is spot on. My book, The Obama Timeline, dares to tell the truth about the thug-in-chief. I was able to spend only a few moments with one senior White House official; he was incredibly rude, arrogant, and dismissive. For that, I told the truth about him as well.
    Find The Obama Timeline at:
    http://www.colony14.net

    Reply

  4. erasmus 48 says:

    Talking about books, this article’s point is perfect for one.
    The White House (Ploufe et al) has created a whole “unfiltered” propaganda media center that images itself as news. Its effectiveness depends on the MSM not asking questions that risk a deviation from the White House “message”.
    Unfortunately, many journalists, either through their sympathy for the agenda or to get better access as the article states, have acquiesced. The MSM has largely become irrevelant in the process.
    It would be very interesting to read a book on who has and has not fallen in line, how the message has been managed, how the Administration has used the various departments to control the message, etc.

    Reply

  5. Thomas Paine says:

    MrDuffin wrote:
    “Obama and his press staff have no scruples and no problem telling lie after lie after lie. This is obvious because of the lies they told to get health care passed.”
    I’m sorry, but I must disagree: Obama’s LYING LIAR LIES began the moment he charted his course to office. The pattern merely continues now….

    Reply

  6. Thomas Paine says:

    As usual, the “standard” corruption of fluff-for-access has been taken to extremes by this callow administration.
    But wait … on the horizon … I see … books EXPOSING AND CRITICIZING Obama will be the vogue. The tide that will turn will rival the Bay of Fundy.

    Reply

  7. Mabel says:

    u r brave. I am heartened to read this sort of info. thank you & bless you

    Reply

  8. pjwg says:

    You must be joking. Uncurious, cheerleading press reports about an extremely liberal President are suddenly news? To the detriment of our country, the press has failed, in every way, to provide responsible coverage on just about every major issue of the day, be it Fannie Mae or Healthcare “reform.” The problem with Fannie Mae, was foreseen more than 10 years ago (see Peter Wallison’s numerous publications and congressional testimony.) For years, Obama and his colleagues insisted on the expansion of the housing bubble by resisting any attempt to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Bush warned and attempted to reform them more than once. As usual, Republicans feared the label of “bigots” and defaulted. Surprise, Wall Street sees opportunity and jumps. But, who is it that has fed the myth (and continues to do so – witness the current press portrayal of the Tea Party) of conservatives as racist? It’s a toxic label, and the press has made money on it for years. This blurb, is nothing but an interesting novelty and best summed up by “duh!” Thanks for nothing.

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  9. MrDuffin says:

    Obama and his press staff have no scruples and no problem telling lie after lie after lie. This is obvious because of the lies they told to get health care passed. Obama is the most corrupt president I have experienced in my life time!

    Reply

  10. Ellen K says:

    Journalistic Integrity? It almost sounds like an oxymoron.
    As for the “news”-tell where CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS were on asking hard questions during the campaign? Every questions was a big soft pitch designed to let the The Chosen One reply with his canned answers. Where are the investigative reporters trying to resolve the gaps in the resume? And where were the reports of Obama getting Texas’ primary by acclamation because supporters showed up in droves and caucuses intimidating poll workers? This administration has gotten a Free Pass on most of their actions for two reasons:
    1. The fear of being labeled as racist.
    2. The shrinking and insular nature of the press corps as regional news papers drop reporters and instead rely on McLatchkey and AP for their stories.
    Fewer eyes on the situation means politicians have far more room to act out. And by the way-where was that transparency and the C=Span coverage on the healthcare bill? The Republicans had theirs online for awhile, but the DNC didn’t seem to get around to it until the eleventh hour.
    And the journalists almost to a man or woman let them get away with this. Which is why so many of the newspapers and news magazines, anachronisms in the time of Internet communications, are losing numbers by the thousands along with CNN and other networks who seem more like Pravda in their blind support of all things government.
    Remember in November.
    Remember in November.

    Reply

  11. GRiver says:

    I think it is plainly obvious that when you mix profit with reporting as in the case of book deals, ratings etc. that there becomes a direct conflict of interest when access=$$$.
    It seems the Washington press corps has gravitated away…ok, radically departed from its fiduciary responsibilities of reporting the truth and moved toward a personal enrichment in both financial terms and political agenda.

    Reply

  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I just saw Micheal Oren on CNN’s “State of the Union”.
    It was disheartening seeing the commentator lob softball questions at some Israeli asshole lying to the American people on a major media outlet.
    Not once did this media whore, “Candy”, say the word “illegal”, nor did she challenge the lying piece of shit’s assertion that Netanyahu had frozen Jerusalem land theft for ten months. Anyone that paid even moderate attention knows that the so called “settlement freeze” was a con job, and didn’t really exist.
    Misinformation is Israel’s sole foundation of legitimacy, and ALL the major American media outlets, Fox, MSNBC, CNN, etc are instrumental in shoring up this foundation of fictional rationals, fabricated justifications, and rewritten histories.

    Reply

  13. bud says:

    bush was bad…. uncle Barry is Worse….

    Reply

  14. Steve Clemons says:

    Note to APrivateMatter:
    Your post is completely misinformed. I publicly stated that I was attending a forum on “political islam” in Doha hosted by the Al Jazeera Center in many places — facebook, twitter, and on National Public Radio. I encouraged Swisher to write the piece, and if he did not, I planned to do so. He was deferring on Schneller’s behalf, not mine. And frankly, the entire forum was aired live on Al Jazeera in its totality. It was always public record. As a guy who interviews Hamas’s Meshal, I think I would not have a problem divulging my own interactions with other leaders in the Political Islam movement. So, your note offends for its lack of background and context. You might ask me to respond before you post comments with such innuendo in the future.
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  15. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Gads, its truly humorous seeing all these right wing assholes flocking in here to turn the absence of journalistic integrity into a partisan topic. As if Fox News is somehow more honest than MSNBC, and the Bush Administration wasn’t equally engaged in pimping the Fourth Estate. If you asked a number of these partisan jerk-offs, (whose comments appear above), who Armstrong is, and how he is relevant to this debate, I bet most of them wouldn’t even know.
    Equally as humorous, is seeing these jackasses like this “Duncan Idaho” commenting as if the majority of the regular “commentors” here are partisan in their criticisms of the government and the media. These Fox News educated dingbats seem to be only able to think in terms of right vs left, being too damned ignorant to realize the media is punking BOTH sides of the aisle, as are the politicians of both the right and the left.
    Truth is, the ignorance of the general populace, be they right OR left, doesn’t bode well for the future of our country. Reading the partisan drool, above, doesn’t exactly instill optimism, does it?

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  16. Duncan Idaho says:

    Heh, taste the Hope and Change.
    I ain’t got no sympathy for the lot of you.

    Reply

  17. A fred says:

    i hope all those “journalists” are saving the blue dresses, after all those BJs. after this bunch is gone, the truth about it is going to worth a lot more, than the puff crap they are peddling now. on their knees. if anyone will be listening to them by then.

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  18. Hank says:

    Is the WH press core corrupt?Hmmmm,did the Waltons take way to long to say goodnight?

    Reply

  19. Jimmy says:

    “This kind of thing can blow up. On the other hand, these trends
    can easily be turned around.”
    The turnaround will happen in November 2010 at the polls.

    Reply

  20. javier says:

    Good post, but in the effort to project a tone of dispassionate analysis, it neglects the elephant in the room. The WH press corps is overwhelmingly onboard with the Obama program and its docile daily questioning is a demonstration of what everyone knows: they see their role as one of advancing a narrative, not spoiling for “news’ and “the truth” as an advocate of a public it largely disdains.
    With rare exceptions–Major Garret, who even as the Fox WH correspondent is generally very friendly to Obama, Ed Henry of CNN, Jake Tapper of ABC–the questions pitched to Gibbs are phrased so as to avoid concreteness, definition and accountability. “Does the president think that…”–no matter what follows the query–will be answered in a self-serving way with a dismissive yes or no depending on the political advantage. Other questions of that type are the daily menu at the WH press briefing, giving the inimitably inarticulate and obfuscating Gibbs a forum for misinformation.
    The recent charges of anti-Obamacare hostility toward Democratic congressmen was a paradigm of the modality described above. Even Ed Henry fell into the pattern, accepting a premise of abuse without substantiation and then asking for comment (we see now how some of the original accusations are being talked back). What could possibly come of that other than moral preening for the cameras, and pablum for the stories filed that day. Never was the question posed: “In the absence of substantiated evidence, why should the public assume these allegations are true coming, as they do, from one side with a stake in the story; and why doesn’t the president tamp down passions on such a divisive issue?”
    No doubt, that question would not merit future insider invitations from Mr. Gibbs. In light of this attitude from waht has at other times–notably with Bush–been a forward attack force, it is perhaps more accurate, to borrow a line from Obama, to talk of a WH press corpse rather than a press corps.

    Reply

  21. Don Bacon says:

    Bill R,
    “Most people have suspected them of trying to build the bomb for a long time now.”
    You’d make a good WH “journalist,” Bill R., because there is no support for your outlandish statement. There are 6.6 billion people in the world, by the way.

    Reply

  22. Bill R. says:

    Unlike several posters here, I am okay with Obama not naming sources or providing evidence of Iran’s nuke goals, yet. Most people have suspected them of trying to build the bomb for a long time now. Those sources and methods need to be protected at all costs. When the time is right, evidence will be revealed.
    Next, it is not the press’ job to write either positive or negative stories from the WH. They need to write the truth and I will decide if it is good or bad. That is one reason I am on the internet. There are many things on the web that the MSM won’t print and for quite a few stories lately, I’ve had to go to British media to learn of things our media won’t talk about. Why is that?

    Reply

  23. Michael says:

    With all due respect Steve, do you think this is really shocking or groundbreaking news? Trading favors for access and “the scoop” or “the skinny” goes as far back as privilege and media have existed…meaning pretty much recorded history. In fact in the early days and still in developing democracies most of the privileged owned the papers anyway. How different is it here? Marginally better for sure, but how much is the real question.
    Definitely an excellent problem to bring up and call attention to. I am just saying, as you hinted at, this is not purely an Obama problem. Every President and every future President will strategically try to exploit information to their benefit both politically, and from a point of governance.
    What we need to do is trust journalists to bargain accordingly. The excellent journalists will do so, and the compromising ones will not.
    There’s always a bigger fish.

    Reply

  24. Thunderstorm Patriot says:

    Wel, what else would we expect from the Obama administration. He is just taking Chicago politics to a national scale. With this bunch it is all about corruption and trading on favors. It is all they know.

    Reply

  25. John says:

    This is why the WH was trying to destroy Fox News by declaring them “not a news network” — because unlike every other MSM outlet, they won’t get on their knees and orally gratify Dear Leader.

    Reply

  26. DeVan says:

    Keep in mind that most if not all of these “reporters” are union members who belong to the Communications Workers, AFTRA, etc. & therefore share many of Obama’s far left ideologies. If you doubt this ask yourself how many stories have you seen lately of union corruption? Or even more rare, corruption in government unions. I guarantee it’s not because the corruption isn’t there. Go to AFTRA.org and check out the organization most TV and radio “reporters” belong to. It will answer any remaining questions you have about the liberal media and their agenda.

    Reply

  27. Don Bacon says:

    news report:
    Speaking today in an interview broadcast on CBS, President Barack Obama alleged that

    Reply

  28. Increase Mather says:

    I am embarrassed for the mainstream media. They have become a joke. They’ve been campaigning for Obama for two and a half years.
    They never vetted him; we know little or nothing about his early background. His education, grades, sat score, even his long form birth certificate are secret.
    No, I am not a birther. But since when has it become crazy to want a chief executive to prove his constitutional qualifications?
    The media has marginalized his opponents. The coverage of the Tea Party movement has been a slash and burn operation…I think because the media does not want to examine the health care bill, close-up.
    If the story becomes the radical members of the Tea Party…they don’t have to cover the bill.
    What is going on?

    Reply

  29. Scrapiron says:

    The Lame Stream Media isn’t accustomed to dealing with the Mafia, or are scared for their personal safety so they report the white house talking points as news.

    Reply

  30. JohnMc says:

    “Anything with “Obama” on it is running at a huge premium in the book publication market.” If that is your premise, I am afraid you and those preparing to write a book are going to be disappointed. –
    The American Journey of Barack Obama #120,654
    Obama: The Historic Journey # 49,823
    The Audacity to Win: The Inside
    Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s
    Historic Victory # 2,628
    Obama: From Promise to Power #347,843
    I could wade through 6 pages of Amazon titles with ‘Obama’ listed. Except for Poufle’s ‘The Audacity to Win’ none break above 50,000 in sales rank. So it would appear that writing a gripping novel on John Jay might garner a higher sales rank than anything on Obama.
    So please, give up the crass capitalism angle and go find the real reason that most of the WH press core are acting like supplicants in front of the king. The promise of a big book deal is not the reason why.

    Reply

  31. RonD504 says:

    Who is surprised by this? No one who pays attention that’s for sure. The establishment media went out of it’s way to avoid any controversial stories involving then candidate Obama, and manufactured controversy involving candidate McCain. From the unfounded stories alleging extra-marital affairs with a lobbyist to the reports that McCain wasn’t even able to use a computer. (Was that stories’ purpose to highlight the years of abuse and torture he suffered at the hands of the North Vietnamese, resulting in the inability to position his arms in relation to a mouse and keyboard? No, it was to highlight that McCain was just an old man out of touch with current society, in sharp contrast to the cool, hip, new guy on the block.) Since then, they go out of their way to try to positively spin every story in favor of the current administration. There was a small glimmer of hope when some denounced the administrations attempts to ostracize and demonize Fox News, but that glimmer faded quickly. They turn there heads to campaign offices with Che posters, crazy preachers damning America, former bombers who now are ‘respected educators’, administration officials who are truthers, self proclaimed communists, officials who admire and quote Mao. The press is not serving the people, as you indicated in your article it seems they are more interested in serving themselves.

    Reply

  32. sherlock says:

    The White House Press Corpse stinks of corruption? Oh, say it ain’t so!
    Seriously, anyone who listens to the puffballs these guys serve up for the administration’s flacks to smack over the fence, the fawning fan-girl pieces they do about life as Obama, and the absolute silence that greets the most blatant spinning and lying (except for the soft sursuration as they lap it up like kittens at a saucer of warm milk), and still believes a single word of what is published about this White House, is an utter fool who clearly desires to be duped.

    Reply

  33. Leah says:

    Bought media (and that means most of you!) no longer shape
    public opinion. We’ve seen behind the curtain and we know how
    all this works. That’s why Fox News and the British press are
    rockin’. They have an adversarial relationship with the White
    House and other liberal sacred cows and have no compunctions
    about covering them with brutal honesty. Climate change chumps
    and ObamaZombies no longer drive the narrative. Too bad for
    you.

    Reply

  34. Fallon says:

    Look what happened to Helen Thomas when she noted how controlling the Obama White House has been with the press, she was mocked by Gibbs.

    Reply

  35. gregd01 says:

    The most corrupt US administration in history is enthusiastically enabled by the press. It’s nice to see the evidence but we already knew this.

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  36. pjean says:

    What is stunning to me is that the journalist cannot see that if they pursued honest and hard-hitting journalism, they would be rewarded greatly. Perhaps not by satisfaction of the White House, which would feed their ego, but rather, by the appreciation of the American people, which would feed the soul.
    We live in times where we must prioritize soul over ego.

    Reply

  37. Bill M says:

    “But the White House Correspondents Association would be smart to consider “best practices” for its members who are simultaneously reporting inside the White House and also dreaming of future best-selling Obama epics.”
    This assumes they want to be objective.
    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe a large number of them are biased because of ideology not just trying to gain access.

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  38. Vietvet says:

    They are all whores! It will be very interesting when we have another Republican President and see how these whores cover her!

    Reply

  39. Da prof says:

    I guess it goes back to what President Bill Clinton once stated:
    “It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is ”

    Reply

  40. PissedOffAmerican says:

    For instance…….
    Obama Claims

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  41. PissedOffAmerican says:

    RickS…….
    Maybe we should ask Armstrong about journalistic integrity and the media’s relationship with the Bush Administration, eh?
    There IS NO high horse in this debate, Rick.
    But one thing IS made clear by Steve’s latest essay. He is highly selective in his praise, and his criticism, of journalists. And that selectivity does not really seem to be based in any sort of expectation or appreciation of journalistic integrity, or his criticisms would be across the board, considering the pathetic state of our current “Fourth Estate”.

    Reply

  42. RickS says:

    “Posted by Cathie from Canada, Apr 03 2010, 1:03AM – Link
    So we’ve had more than a year of non-stop media stories of doom and gloom and what a terrible job Obama is doing and how weak he is and how everybody hates him”——–From whom? Not anyone in the WH press corps. If you’re talking about Fox or some of the Right-wing blogs OK. But, most people in this country still get their news from other sources. The “newspaper of record” is still the NY Times, which is about 100% pro-Obama. Seriously Cathie, other than having to deal with the occasional testiness of a Jake Tapper or Major Garrett, or Helen Thomas’ demented geriatric rantings, Robert Gibbs still has the easiest job in the world. It’s “all fawning, all the time” up in there.

    Reply

  43. RickS says:

    “I agree that it would be egregious to
    suggest that questioning of the administration’s policies is “unpatriotic” as was the case with the previous administration.”———DavidT, can you cite one example of this type of behavior from the Bush administration? When exactly did a Bush press secretary describe a member of the WH press as “unpatriotic” after putting out a negative story? There should be plenty of examples (and I mean plenty). Oh, don’t have any? Yeah, you really need to get your information from someplace other than The Daily Show or Colbert. Try again. You’re welcome. Next.

    Reply

  44. alan says:

    While I don’t quarrel with your overall thrust on the issue of access journalism and its consequences I am left wondering about this: you enjoy access too and have made it into something useful. At the same time you have “profited” from that access in terms of a rise is your stature. Isn’t advancement in Washington all about access, getting invited to parties and generally living off politics and parlour games?

    Reply

  45. aprivatematter says:

    Steve, this post of yours is hypocritical…
    Why didn’t you choose to inform your readers on
    Feb. 23rd of the debate that you participated in
    on Al Jazeera while in Doha? Surely it was
    noteworthy considering Rachel Schneller, a U.S.
    Foreign Service Officer on loan to CFR, sat
    alongside Hamas operative Osama Hamdan on that
    very panel???
    According to what Clayton Swisher writes on his
    blog yesterday, you specifically counselled him to
    squelch his own reporting of that story that very
    evening (Feb. 23, 2010.) And he was only too
    happy to oblige, lest he lose his access to you,
    the consummate Washington insider. Makes me think
    you were also worried about the same, considering
    the silent treatment you gave to a major headline
    had it come out at the time.
    I guess these tacit understandings are okay so
    long as they preserve your own access. This is a
    big problem with your type of ‘journalism’, not
    just theirs. Hope you respond to this with a post
    of your own and explain to your regular readers
    what justifies such hypocrisy.

    Reply

  46. Mariko Fukuyama says:

    Finally! You, Americans, noticed, too?? Being a foreign (Japanese) journalist covering several presidential campaigns, the way Obama’s press people handling anything reminded me so much of how Japan went to those wars… since 2007!!! even though I’m not that old to remember those wars.
    I was amazed how most Americans don’t realize what they are seeing because they don’t know how easily governments can manipulate you media. You (media people) have to be more careful!!!! This is not a very healthy relationship.

    Reply

  47. Cathie from Canada says:

    So we’ve had more than a year of non-stop media stories of doom and gloom and what a terrible job Obama is doing and how weak he is and how everybody hates him — remember how Obama was raked over the coals for tele-prompter-gate, anyone? the long hot summer of the tea parties? that Harvard professor? the underpants bomber? Michelle’s bare arms, for heavens sake? Remember all that and more?
    Now we finally start to see some positive coverage for things that actually matter, like Obama’s new agreement with Russia, health insurance reform, economic turnaround, car companies solvent, international relations improving, enthusiastic town hall meetings, thoughtful and forward-looking speeches.
    So Republican push-back is not surprising — cue the articles about how those darn librull reporters are just a bunch of toady suck-ups who are being bribed to make happy talk, implying that the Obama administration is lying to the American public.
    But I am disappointed to see Steve Clemons getting gulled so easily by the Republican spin machine.

    Reply

  48. Don Bacon says:

    SC: “Some journalists seem to be putting their self interest above their responsibilities to the public as well as their employers.”
    Actually their employers have made it crystal clear: Lose your access and lose your job. That’s clearly in your “self interest.” Clear? So what’s your next puff piece on Obama. Less jobs are higher employment? More war is peace? More nukes are less?
    The idea that the media has some responsibility to the people is demonstrably false. As in any business, they have a responsibility to contribute to the business’s profitability by writing articles that promote a good feeling in the public toward the government. That’s what sells advertising which pays the bills and contributes to profit.
    Journalists? Pimps.

    Reply

  49. cc says:

    It isn’t just about the books.
    As long as reporters are rewarded by their news organizations for ‘getting access’, and as long as the inside scoop is more valued by the editors than the truth, the Whitehouse will always grant access only to the journalists.
    The press used to band together against this kind of crap, and slam the WH for its arrogance in thinking it can buy the press.
    But then, that was back when the press had some respect for themselves and for their integrity.
    Alas, the press cares as little now about their integrity as the congress does for the constitution.

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  50. Dirk says:

    Wow, did I accidentally browse over to Wonkette?

    Reply

  51. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “…refusal to avoid all things…..”
    Hmmm, long day, I guess.

    Reply

  52. malclave says:

    >> 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.”
    So journalists are pretty much $10 hookers. We already knew this.
    I am curious as to what “the press sense” is, though. Is that humming, or ice cubes in the mouth, or something like that?

    Reply

  53. JGabriel says:

    White House access is granted on the basis of
    positive coverage?
    Wow. Does Karl Rove know?
    .

    Reply

  54. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Until Steve takes Maddow and Olberman to task for their irresponsible refusal to avoid all things Israel, his targeting of White House correspondents seems just a bit biased in its focus.

    Reply

  55. Crusty Dem says:

    Steve, did you just end up getting the date wrong? Based on content, I’m pretty sure this article had to be April 1st.
    “Communications Corruption”? I assume you’re fishing for a Drudge link? I know you’re not this stupid, right?

    Reply

  56. jvill says:

    An administration trades access for positive news stories?
    In other news, rain falls down.
    Where were you intrepid reporter types during that whole “march to war in Iraq” thing?

    Reply

  57. Steve Clemons says:

    Tom65 — you got me chuckling. Touche. best, steve

    Reply

  58. Tom65 says:

    Wow Steve, you really blew the lid off that one. What’s next, faux “reporters” granted mysterious access to lob softball questions?
    I’m sure the Taft administration is horrified.

    Reply

  59. D says:

    The the problem lies with the White House? What
    about ethically challenged journalists who are
    willing to do deals in return for access?
    Seriously, you think this is a problem for the
    White House, when the problem is one of
    journalistic ethics? Of course the task of White
    House communications is to show the work of the
    White House in the best possible light – that’s
    because they think they are doing a good job, and
    that’s what they want to tell you.
    The amazing thing about this story is that it does
    not name a single journalist. Name the journalists
    who have made agreements for access. Why is the
    white house reporter with the salty analogy for
    what goes on in these agreements anonymous?
    Serious – you are the press, and the problem lies
    with the Press Corps, not with the journalistic
    ethics of the White House communications team -
    because they are not journalists!

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  60. The Other Steve says:

    Don’t let Bob Woodward know.

    Reply

  61. Don Bacon says:

    We have examples of “Communications Corruption” right in front of us in today’s “news.”
    Washington Post:
    Obama credits economic policies for March jobs picture
    CHARLOTTE — Welcoming news of a burst in March of job creation, President Obama said Friday that the country has turned a corner, and he expressed new optimism that his economic policies have taken hold.
    NYTimes
    In NC, Obama Hails Jobs Report:
    CHARLOTTE, N.C.

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  62. nadine says:

    Maw and David, First, Fox is a cable channel, without the combined reach of ABC, CBS, NBC. Add up all conservative media outlets and they are still outnumbered in reach by liberal media outlets by at least 4 to 1. Second, did you notice Obama’s efforts to delegitimize Fox as a news source and bar Major Garrett from WH briefings? He had to back off from that one.
    Secure in the bubble of DC media love, Obama & his media water carriers have pursued the meme that criticism is only “vitriol” from the “fringe”. Thus the big effort to paint the tea party movement as fringe and/or violent, which is pure invention. Which is why I don’t buy the idea that Obama is less petty than the Clintons; I think he’s still in denial. We’ll see how he reacts once he understands that independents have really swung against him.

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  63. David T says:

    Nadine,
    It may be true that Obama has gotten lots of positive coverage. However to suggest he’s not used to negative coverage by now, to me, is silly. Between a week or two after the Brown election and the week before passage of health care reform, as just one example, his administration was characterized as ineffectual and rudderless. Fair or not, its hard for me to imagine anyone running for president who doesn’t suffer from a fair amount of criticism, even if you argue that Obama didn’t get as much as some others (which may be the press’s doing and it may also his operation’s effectiveness in messaging).
    Where I feel this administration is strong is that it is actually less petty than many previous administrations. There are counter-examples, of course. But one of the striking things about this president is that he doesn’t seem to operate like so many before him, like the Clintons, like Nixon, who took personally criticism and felt journalists were out to get them when they wrote critically of their administrations.
    However I don’t understand why, with an Administration’s limited resources and limited time it should overly worry about providing more access to its critics. How that furthers its goals I don’t know (and feel that what most people care about is the success in that pursuit so long as the means is not egregious which its not here — at least any more than any other president).

    Reply

  64. The Pessimist says:

    There cannot be much journalistic objectivity in any story when the writer

    Reply

  65. Maw of America says:

    “Obama is used to over-the-top positive coverage, glowing coverage without a hint of criticism.” (Nadine)
    You must not be reading Politico or watching Fox (which does have higher ratings than any other cable news station).
    Examples are always useful.

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  66. nadine says:

    “I’m sorry, I don’t get it. If the piece was a mostly positive piece why would the WH punish the reporter?”
    Allison, because Obama is used to over-the-top positive coverage, glowing coverage without a hint of criticism. It must be a shock to the WH to see any negative coverage, however mild, and they are trying to deal with it using the normal Chicago methods.

    Reply

  67. nadine says:

    “”Corruption.”? Are you serious? I’m shocked, shocked,
    shocked that journalists who write positive stuff about the
    administration fare better than those who write negative stuff.
    Isn’t that just “politics”? (DaveT)
    There are degrees. Not all politicians who rise to President think they are owed fawning coverage by the whole political press corps. Most have experience taking their lumps from a hostile press in their previous executive jobs. Obama doesn’t have the experience, neither in a previous job nor of coverage that is less than fawning. He’s gotten kid glove treatment his entire short career, and the media just swooned for him in the campaign.
    Even today, they are still dutifully putting the best face on bad news for Obama – ‘housing starts decline unexpectedly for the fourth month in a row’ for example. Under Obama bad news is always “unexpected”. Under Bush, the papers expected a recession for years before it turned up “the economy grew 5% this quarter, but economists predict a sharp downturn shortly’ was the template.

    Reply

  68. Pahlavan says:

    Great post! Our business world has become a real victim of the grand office’s value system as well. In fact the seduction disease has worked itself so far down into the food chain that damage to our previously ideal system of commerce is becoming too much to bring the pendulum back without substantial consequences to our productivity.

    Reply

  69. Elvis Elvisberg says:

    Does access ever make for sound, useful news? I’m inclined to think “no.”
    Hopefully the journalists spurned can do some real reporting, digging stuff up that doesn’t come from some insider calling them and telling them what to write.

    Reply

  70. DonS says:

    Corruption is exactly the right word, as it was to describe the press/WH communication relationship during the Bush era (who can forget Jeff Gannon). But, two things. 1) Obama has continued so much of Bush’s policy and practice he needs all the spin he can get to pad his resume and create the optics of distinction without a real difference in those many ways 2) as said above, and certainly implied in Steve’s piece there needs to be a ‘best practices’ standard or code of ethics is more like it. My guess is that a code already exists, http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp , but is observed in the breach — maybe even laughed at except when, for example, some big time plagiarism is exposed. So, within the realm of cynicism and reality, one can only hope that more journalists can resist corporate as well as WH pressure, as well as their own base motives, and remember what the practice of honorable hournalism is.

    Reply

  71. Allison W. says:

    I’m sorry, I don’t get it. If the piece was a mostly positive piece why would the WH punish the reporter?
    In any case, I have no sympathy for reporters – none. Even when I heard complaints like this with the other administration, I rolled my eyes and said, “boo hoo”. And I think its a safe bet that this has gone on in many if not all previous administrations.

    Reply

  72. Beyondo says:

    I don’t have anything particularly novel to say
    about this, but corruption seems like a strange
    label to append to this. is this not exactly how
    this relationship *always* works? i mean, i
    suppose you could say the media-political
    complex is *always* corrupt, which I’d be OK with.
    but what would make this white house different?
    it seems endemic and structural, not a matter of
    personalities or idealism that this just is the way
    it is.
    obama, a commodity, is sought by a large number
    of people under increasing pressure to get access
    to him. the communications team, whose job it is
    to *shape public opinion on matters crucial to the
    president*, sees this as an opportunity to fulfill
    their mission. so the price tag is high.
    if the central role this basic supply and demand
    analysis plays in presidential communications is
    new to clemons, i’d be very surprised. so
    corruption, again, strikes me as a strange way to
    view this.

    Reply

  73. erik says:

    boo hoo.

    Reply

  74. DavidT says:

    Steve,
    “Corruption.”? Are you serious? I’m

    Reply

  75. Don Bacon says:

    SC: “The White House needs to do its part and provide access based on the merits of high quality, even hard-hitting analysis and reporting, not on seduction.”
    Good luck on that.
    Henry David Thoreau: “To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea. Yet not a few are greedy after this gossip.
    “As for Spain, for instance, if you know how to throw in Don Carlos and the Infanta, and Don Pedro and Seville and Granada, from time to time in the right proportions

    Reply

  76. Wanderer says:

    Steve, I think most communications teams work this way, but the
    responsibility is on the writers not to fall for the bait that the comm
    team puts out there. I think you get this just right. There are
    responsibilities on both sides. I think that Obama’s team is very
    good actually, but I think where someone may have crossed line is
    beating up Luce for what was a good profile. That’s not right. He
    played his role, and they played theirs. Should stop there with
    mutual respect.

    Reply

  77. ... says:

    good post steve and a necessary one in all likelihood too… thanks

    Reply

  78. DCPolitico says:

    Wow. Steve, congrats on yet another lucid, home run critique of the system. I had not seen the commentary by Howard Kurtz and Glenn Greenwald. Thanks for links.
    And how did you get Luce to go on the record. Someone is being brave here. Wow. Just wow.
    I also very much appreciate your fair and friendly tone. I hope your White House friends recognize what a friend they have in how you pitch this stuff. It’s good for them to hear.

    Reply

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