Usually you see this kind of cri de coeur from blogs on the Left and Right over a lack of access to major political candidates and officeholders. Among all newspapers, the Washington Post would be the least likely to complain about being ignored. It’s the big dog in the Beltway and drives the news cycle as much as any other newspaper with the possible exception of the New York Times. An yet, Paul Farhi wonders why Barack Obama has avoided the Post in particular, and print media in general:
“Entertainment Tonight” scored one last year. The New York Times did not.
“The View” has gotten several. The Washington Post hasn’t had one in years.
America’s newspapers have trouble enough these days, what with shrinking ad revenue and straying readers. But the daily print-and-pixel press also hasn’t gotten much love lately from the biggest newsmaker in the business: President Obama.
When Obama does media interviews these days, it’s not with a newspaper. TV gets the bulk of the president’s personal attention, from his frequent appearances on “60 Minutes” to MTV to chitchats with local stations around the country. Magazines — including the New Republic, which recently landed an interview conducted by its owner, Facebook co-founder and former Obama campaign operative Chris Hughes — are a distant second, followed by radio.
There are a few things going on here that probably have little to do with the Post in particular. During the campaign, I criticized Obama for dodging the serious political press, especially in eschewing press conferences, and I was hardly alone. One could count on one hand the number of formal press conferences Obama had in all of 2012, and got ridiculed by his opponents for giving exclusive interviews to lightweight entertainment venues instead.
That turned out to be a pretty good strategy, however. Instead of focusing attention on the readership of newspapers, which are more politically attuned and probably in Obama’s camp already, Obama focused on media outlets that catered to the less-engaged and less-informed. That gave him an opportunity to sell his agenda without facing tough questions from politically-engaged and informed reporters, making the sale even easier.
Even his interviews in more traditional outlets came with reporters who aren’t exactly inclined to get tough with Obama. He chose CBS’ Steve Kroft because Kroft wasn’t going to surprise him with tough questions — as Kroft himself admitted to Piers Morgan. Farhi also notes that Obama’s interview in The New Republic, normally a politically sophisticated magazine, was conducted by new publisher and former Obama adviser and volunteer Chris Hughes.
So far, newspapers and other traditional media outlets have let Obama get away with it. Few have even bothered to criticize the strategy, and almost none bothered to do so when it might have mattered — during the presidential campaign. Only Jake Tapper made it an issue in August, after which the White House called a rare press conference to quell the resentment.
Simply put, Obama isn’t going to change his media strategy as long as it works and he doesn’t pay a price for it. Why should he?