Communications Corruption at the White House

Steve Clemons
TheWashingtonNote
4/2/2010

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.

The 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.

Read the rest of the article at TheWashingtonNote.

H/T Atlas Shrugs

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