Pfeiffer: Obama, softball interviews? I’m sure I don’t know what you mean

posted at 3:21 pm on April 3, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

The Obama White House has taken a lot of heat for a media strategy that seems to include limiting traditional access to the president in favor of less hard-hitting venues, but be reasonable, people! They’re merely approaching coverage of the president with a more fair “all of the above” policy that can help them reach a wider audience — is it really their fault if softball interviews just happen to land in their lap?

But senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer scoffed at the suggestion that the White House is deliberately avoiding tough questions.

“There is no such thing as a softball interview,” he insisted during a Politico breakfast on Wednesday morning. …

“We’re going to do interviews with everyone from Jon Stewart to 60 Minutes to Bill Simmons’ pod cast – and everything in between – if that’s what it’s going to take to reach audiences, particularly those between 18 and 35 who don’t consume media in the same way,” Pfeiffer said.

Mm hmm. You really do have to hand it to them on their masterful manipulation of social media: The White House is tactically tapping into the technological opportunities of the 21st century to control the president’s image and news-of-the-day narratives with great success, so much so that they’ve practically created their own state-run media machine. But, when the Associated Press notices that you’re up to something… you’ve got problems.

Capitalizing on the possibilities of the digital age, the Obama White House is generating its own content like no president before, and refining its media strategies in the second term in hopes of telling a more compelling story than in the first.

At the same time, it is limiting press access in ways that past administrations wouldn’t have dared, and the president is answering to the public in more controlled settings than his predecessors. It’s raising new questions about what’s lost when the White House tries to make an end run around the media, functioning, in effect, as its own news agency. …

With interviews, the president has more power to choose his timing, questioners and format, in hopes of delivering a certain message in a setting that’s not always hard-hitting. In impromptu Q-and-A’s, the questions fly about anything and everything from the national press corps — and these wide-open opportunities to challenge the president on the events of the day have become increasingly rare. …

“There’s no question that he’s opening and closing the door at his choice,” says Gerald Shuster, a professor of political communication at the University of Pittsburgh. “He’s controlling the flow as much as he can.”

But… Most Transparent Administration, Evah!


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