Originally published October 21 2014
Obama Administration controls press-pool reports, determining what information journalists are allowed to share
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Veteran Washington journalists and reporters, when they are being honest, will tell you that the current administration is the most political in modern history. Everything is about the proper messaging; optics are much more important, and policy is designed around perpetuating Democratic power.
What they will also tell you is that this White House is so concerned about messaging that it will go to any length to shape it, and that includes pressuring reporters, threatening them with loss of access and, yes, even spying on them (and their parents). It also includes savaging critics.
'White House has demanded and received changes to pool reports
One of the most egregious tactics has been to demand that reporters change press-pool reports -- again, to reflect a message that the administration wants to project, whether it's accurate or not. As reported by The Washington Post:
White House press-pool reports are supposed to be the news media's eyes and ears on the president, an independent chronicle of his public activities. They are written by reporters for other reporters, who incorporate them into news articles about President Obama almost every day.
Sometimes, however, the White House plays an unseen role in shaping the story.
The Post said that White House correspondents have complained that press aides for the president have demanded and received changes in press-pool reports before those reports were distributed among other journalists. And they have said this White House uses its leverage -- which translates into access -- "to steer coverage in a more favorable direction," the Post said.
The paper went on to report that most of the disputed episodes involved trivial issues and minor factual matters. However, that this White House has even gotten involved in such matters makes for a bad trend; that some journalists have sold their souls and agreed to placate the very government they are charged with covering is even worse. The sell-out has prompted the White House Correspondents' Association to consider revisions to pool reporting.
In case you're not familiar with the White House press-pool reporting, it was a system created decades ago as a pragmatic compromise between the news media and the presidency: Rather than a mob of reporters covering the president at every conceivable function, private and otherwise, a small group of reporters are designated as proxies, essentially, and provide summaries as "poolers" for the entire press corps. As the Post explains:
Poolers are chosen on a rotating basis from among regular White House correspondents, and they typically get more favorable access to presidential events to provide coverage that is shared with other reporters.
As you might imagine, a pooler is a coveted position, but when the pool reports are skewed, colored or slanted by the administration, the end message is favorably "shaped" and the public is thereby denied an accurate account of what was said or done by the president at said events.
Political appointees now handling FOIA requests
But the Post is underplaying the effect of the administration's tactics -- again, likely to retain access. In reality, Washington correspondents are increasingly complaining about how the press is treated by Obama -- which is ironic, given the media's kid-glove treatment of this president from day one:
- The Associated Press' Washington bureau chief, Sally Buzbee, said that the Obama White House engages in "day-to-day intimidation" of reporters. "AP's transportation reporter's sources say that if they are caught talking to her, they will be fired," Erin Madigan White wrote about Buzbee's statements in an AP blog. "Even if they just give her facts, about safety, for example. Government press officials say their orders are to squelch anything controversial or that makes the administration look bad."
- In May, U.S. News and World Report noted that 42 percent of current White House correspondents said the administration is the "most secretive" ever, while 50 percent said this White House has lied to them.
Buzbee also said that political appointees are handling Freedom of Information Act requests, and that the administration uses such requests as a "tip sheet," to discover what reporters are covering (so it can change the narrative beforehand).
White gives several more examples, which you can see here.
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