The White House has threatened to cut the San Francisco Chronicle from pool coverage in the Bay Area after a hissy fit over senior political reporter Carla Marinucci posting a video of protesters disrupting a donor breakfast of swells, who forked over up to $38,500 each to hear a re-election pitch from President Obama on April 21.
Richard Nixon, who famously kicked CBS from the Pentagon after it ran “The Selling of the Pentagon” series, must be laughing in his grave.
Thin-skinned White House advisors whined about Marinucci breaking the rules. As part of a “print-only pool” at the at the St. Regis Hotel, she was supposed to provide only text for distribution. Marinucci sent the written pool report and then used the video in the online Chron and a political blog. [Yours truly is a huge fan of the digital Chron.]
The White House has promised over and over that it would be the most transparent one ever. That flies in the face of attempting to enforce a policy of determining what is and what isn’t news. How can it fathom restricting the print media from video, while 98 percent of the audience sitting in the St. Regis had video capacity via smart/cellphones?
Protesters videoed and posted the eruption. Members of the audience also shot the action.
With all due respect to the president, the protest was 100-times more newsworthy than a canned political plug. It took place in the most liberal city in America, where voters gave Obama more than 80 percent of their votes in 2008.
And what about the topic of the protest? The protesters stood and sang in support of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier who allegedly leaked U.S. documents to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks outfit. Assange is the globe’s Mr. Transparency. That contrasts most transparent White House wannabe, which has a Justice Dept. that vows to prosecute Assange if he ever steps on American soil. As my teen-age daughter says, "How awkward is that?"
The Chron debacle is part of the White House policy of shafting the “established” press in favor of newbies. Members of the D.C. press corps have loudly complained about lack of access to Obama fund-raisers. The White House communications shop, meanwhile, goes hogwild courting “citizen journalists” and praising social media. The day before the fund-raiser, Obama gave a speech at the headquarters of Facebook, where he talked up development of the “new media.”
The White House’s antiquated pool policy shows disdain for the “mainstream” press, while allowing citizen journalists a free ticket to cover what they want. The Obama administration apparently feels it can better control the message by dealing with eager and impressionable bloggers rather than grizzled members of the “old media.”
It ignores the basic reality that content from old media reaches millions of more eyeballs than what any citizen journalist can ever dream of attracting.