The White House beat: Where no one knows your name, but everyone hates your tweets

posted at 9:21 am on May 1, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

On Saturday, the White House press corps and the political elite they cover will gather together for the White House correspondents dinner, commonly called “nerd prom.” It’s a glamorous night that gets endless coverage, provided to a nation that largely could care less, but the same could be said about this White House and the press corps, too. Two stories highlight the role of the press in the Obama Era of Transparency, and together it paints an unpleasant picture.

First, the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi profiles Lesley Clark, a reporter for McClatchy who has covered President Obama for years, and who got to ask him one question. That’s it — just one:

Clark has been on the White House beat for three years for the McClatchy newspaper chain, and during that time, she’s been able to ask the president a direct question just once. It was in July 2011, and Obama was in a rare period of direct engagement with the media, appearing almost weekly to pressure Congress into lifting the federal debt ceiling. She asked him whether the administration was enlisting business leaders to lobby Republicans. She even got in a follow-up question about “contingency plans” if a deal couldn’t be reached.

That opportunity hasn’t happened since.

Despite spending her workdays a few dozen feet from the West Wing and the first family’s residence, Clark has been to the Oval Office only three times — on each occasion as part of the press “pool” that stands in for the news media at large. She’s never been past the first floor of the main building. She’s not sure Obama knows her name.

Ask Clark how she feels about her work, and she’ll give you a surprising answer: a bit conflicted.

Conflicted? Journalists spend years working to get on the White House beat (Clark did); they follow the president around the world (she just returned from covering Obama’s trip to Asia) and show off their photos of riding on Air Force One on social media (guilty, says Clark). They’re covering the biggest issues of the day around the most famous and powerful man on the planet.

Yes, says Clark, “it’s pretty awesome to cover a beat that affects people around the world and the U.S., and to witness history in the making.” Yet, she adds quickly, “there’s a disconnect to be covering something and to rarely — if ever, lately — get the opportunity to pose questions to the person you’re covering.”

Reading the rest of the article, we find that Clark doesn’t even get to ask Jay Carney questions, either. One can’t blame her for being conflicted in that context. And when the briefings end, the McClatchy reporter — working for a significant wire service, published in newspapers across the country — has to watch as favored reporters get ushered into private meetings with administration officials. But hardly anyone gets time with Obama himself, whether that’s Clark or anyone else in the gaggle.

For transparency, Clark compares it to one of her previous beats in Florida:

Compared with those beats, Clark sometimes thinks that covering the White House is a little like another one she covered when she worked in Orlando: the Walt Disney Co.’s sprawling theme parks. “They were so locked down, so opaque,” she says.

That isn’t to say that a reporter can’t get noticed by the White House, though. Olivier Knox of Yahoo News offers a look at how the Obama administration deals with reporters on social media — and how a reporter may find himself on the receiving end of a “rocket” for tweeting anything critical:

For the Obama White House, tweets from reporters are a kind of early warning system. It’s up to Jessica Allen, 24, to sound the alarm.

Allen, whose official title is “media monitor,” tracks journalists’ tweets and flags them in mass emails that land in the in-boxes of more than 80 Obama aides, including chief of staff Denis McDonough, White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler, press secretary Jay Carney and senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer.

The result? Reporters who regularly cover Obama have become familiar with seemingly out-of-the-blue emails or telephone calls from officials taking issue with their tweets — often thoughtfully and constructively, sometimes with obscenity-laced yelps of outrage.

For the most part, they won’t engage that way on Twitter itself … not unless the White House finds a political advantage in beating up the reporter:

Interestingly, the White House doesn’t often respond to reporter tweets on Twitter, preferring instead to pick up the phone or send an off-the-record email — private, one-on-one communications.

Democratic officials said the White House’s informal guidelines call for staffers to jump in on Twitter itself in three circumstances: 1) If a Republican official is involved in the exchange, 2) if the White House wants to amplify a point it considers beneficial and 3) if it sees a confrontation with a reporter as politically useful and wants to escalate it.

Ron Fournier has advice for those wanting to end the practice of “rockets”:

Politico surveyed the reporters themselves to get an idea of what they think of the job, and turned it into a graphics nightmare that nonetheless is interesting to peruse. About half declined to disclose their salary range, but half of the rest make between $100K-200K. Nearly six out of ten are between 41-60 years of age, and a large majority have been working as a journalist for more than 20 years. Over half haven’t talked with a White House official except for those in the communications office in the past week, and half say that an Obama official has lied to them. A plurality of 42% think this is the “most secretive White House” ever, while only 20% disagree with that assessment.

When Obama claims his to be the “most transparent administration in history,” ABC’s Ann Compton retorts, “This WH means it is putting its own version of pictures, video and readouts on its own website.”

This weekend, the White House and political elite will treat these journalists with more courtesy. The question will be — as it always is — why the White House press corps plays along.


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Hello, IRS? Here’s the name: Lesley Clark. Looks like she needs an audit. Yes, that’s an order!

22044 on May 1, 2014 at 9:23 AM

provided to a nation that largely could care less,

You mean couldn’t care less?

Bishop on May 1, 2014 at 9:27 AM

Good thing 0 has that sterling GNP to fall back on.

Bmore on May 1, 2014 at 9:27 AM

Ah, the poor, poor journalists who can’t get close enough to Obama to be on bended knee in front of him. They make up for it in their reporting, though.

changer1701 on May 1, 2014 at 9:28 AM

It’s a glamorous night that gets endless coverage, provided to a nation that largely couldn’t care less….

Since we “could” care less about nerd prom but don’t, the proper term is “couldn’t care less”.

I guess the term Presstorian Guard is more apt than Presstitute Organs. After all, the Praetorian Guard turned on a few Roman Emperors.

Steve Eggleston on May 1, 2014 at 9:29 AM

White House courtiers and lapdogs.

myiq2xu on May 1, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Why didn’t the Washington Post profile — the Washington Post?

unclesmrgol on May 1, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Allen, whose official title is “media monitor,” tracks journalists’ tweets and flags them in mass emails that land in the in-boxes of more than 80 Obama aides

No doubt getting paid $200k/year to keep Dog Eater’s ego from being bruised.

Wait…she’s a woman in the administration, make that $100k/year.

Bishop on May 1, 2014 at 9:31 AM

Steve Eggleston on May 1, 2014 at 9:29 AM

Quit raining on my parade, man, these opportunities for me come around so rarely.

Bishop on May 1, 2014 at 9:32 AM

Quit raining on my parade, man, these opportunities for me come around so rarely.

Bishop on May 1, 2014 at 9:32 AM

You got it up first. A minor miracle considering DSL got to Minnesota just last week :-)

Steve Eggleston on May 1, 2014 at 9:34 AM

No doubt getting paid $200k/year to keep Dog Eater’s ego from being bruised.

Wait…she’s a woman in the administration, make that $100k/year.

Bishop on May 1, 2014 at 9:31 AM

But she can get all the abortions she wants.

Steve Eggleston on May 1, 2014 at 9:35 AM

6 year olds would ask tougher questions than the Praetorian Press.

ConstantineXI on May 1, 2014 at 9:38 AM

Ms. Clark is the perfect example of a useful tool. Good thing she had all that experience from Orlando covering Fantasy Land. It came in handy.

Kissmygrits on May 1, 2014 at 9:38 AM

You mean couldn’t care less?

Bishop on May 1, 2014 at 9:27 AM

DING! DING! DING!

Ward Cleaver on May 1, 2014 at 9:39 AM

6 year olds would ask tougher questions than the Praetorian Press.

ConstantineXI on May 1, 2014 at 9:38 AM

I submit the 3-year-old’s “Why? Why? Why?” is tougher than the average Presstorian Guard question posed to the typical Rat Comrade.

Steve Eggleston on May 1, 2014 at 9:42 AM

Over half haven’t talked with a White House official except for those in the communications office in the past week, and half say that an Obama official has lied to them. A plurality of 42% think this is the “most secretive White House” ever, while only 20% disagree with that assessment.

And, yet, if given the opportunity for the Indonesian Imbecile for a third term, they would line up in a flash to vote for him.

No sympathy for these useful idiots. I also have the same mentality about the Old Bolsheviks that Stalin purged. You chose your side, now enjoy the abuse.

dreadnought62 on May 1, 2014 at 9:42 AM

You got it up first. A minor miracle considering DSL got to Minnesota just last week :-)

Steve Eggleston on May 1, 2014 at 9:34 AM

Listen here, you…

Bishop on May 1, 2014 at 9:47 AM

Steve Eggleston on Bishop on May 1, 2014

Bishop on May 1, 2014

…everybody else just sit back and drink your coffee!…this can get funny!

KOOLAID2 on May 1, 2014 at 9:48 AM

…everybody else just sit back and drink your coffee!…this can get funny!

KOOLAID2 on May 1, 2014 at 9:48 AM

I enjoy the banter between MN & WI – I wish there was more of it!

22044 on May 1, 2014 at 9:50 AM

…everybody else just sit back and drink your coffee!…this can get funny!

KOOLAID2 on May 1, 2014 at 9:48 AM

Two old bulls, but not old enough that anybody who thinks they can take advantage won’t get gored.

Steve Eggleston on May 1, 2014 at 9:51 AM

The question will be — as it always is — why the White House press corps plays along.

It’a all a big club…and we’re not in it…

PatriotRider on May 1, 2014 at 9:53 AM

…$100k-$200k salary, world travel…oh, yeah, one more victim class.

socalcon on May 1, 2014 at 9:57 AM

…oh crap!…don’t stop now!…I had to think out loud… here!

KOOLAID2 on May 1, 2014 at 9:57 AM

You mean couldn’t care less?

Bishop on May 1, 2014 at 9:27 AM

If you must use it and you shouldn’t. How about just saying doesn’t care.

crankyoldlady on May 1, 2014 at 9:58 AM

This weekend, the White House and political elite will treat these journalists with more courtesy. The question will be — as it always is — why the White House press corps plays along.

You know if they could get away with it, Fox’s Ed Henry and even ABC’s Jonathan Karl would be on the White House’s “Do Not Call On” list, just because they have asked questions that make Jay Carney squirm. The others either are like Clark — where McClatchy is low enough on the news organization food chain they can ignore her, or others who either have battered wife syndrome — and don’t ask Obama or Carney anything tough because they can’t not having special access to the White House and/or think no one should be asking the White House tough questions, less it hurt The Cause.

(It also should be interesting — based on today’s story about Morning Joe’s blow-up at Donnie Deutsch — to see what happens to Sam Stein. He was the HuffPo’s White House correspondent in 2009 who Obama called on at a news conference, deliberately passing over more senior reporters because he knew Stein would toss him a softball question. After Sam agreed with Scarborough this morning that the White House covering up Ben Rhodes’ email is a real issue, my guess is Stein’s already had a Patriot missile or 10 rocketed into his email account by the administration’s enforcers before Morning Joe even ended.)

jon1979 on May 1, 2014 at 9:58 AM

The question will be — as it always is — why the White House press corps plays along.

Because, unlike references to Navy medics, we have a White House press corpse.

Happy Nomad on May 1, 2014 at 9:58 AM

I enjoy the banter between MN & WI – I wish there was more of it!

22044 on May 1, 2014 at 9:50 AM

…I know!…and it was just getting going!…I just FI UP!

KOOLAID2 on May 1, 2014 at 10:00 AM

I submit the 3-year-old’s “Why? Why? Why?” is tougher than the average Presstorian Guard question posed to the typical Rat Comrade.

Steve Eggleston on May 1, 2014 at 9:42 AM

Yeah, one of those pressers from the Asia trip debacle proved that. I forget which event but the events of the day meant that you could practically see the smoke from the Middle East and Ukraine so……. what does the press ask? How’s he doing with the jet lag.

Happy Nomad on May 1, 2014 at 10:07 AM

The question will be — as it always is — why the White House press corps plays along.

.
Easy answer: because management and the editorial staff can find someone else to do that job just as soon as the current job-holder steps out line far enough to irritate The Regime.

ExpressoBold on May 1, 2014 at 10:16 AM

What does it matter if she asks a question or not? These people are not “reporters,” they’re transcriptionists – they just write what they’re told. There’s no investigation, no “on the scene”, nothing that real reporters do.

So, yeah, “conflicted.”

Lance Corvette on May 1, 2014 at 10:18 AM

“This WH means it is putting its own version of pictures, video and readouts on its own website.”

Just like writing your own autobiography, twice, which is the only thing that anyone knows about him. Otherwise, the truth is too awful to contemplate.

Techster64 on May 1, 2014 at 10:22 AM

McClatchy serves a lot of medium- and small-town newspapers in Flyover Country – places that this Administration does not give a damn about. It works only with media outlets that it thinks can be used to generate votes for Obama and his supporters.

Carney calling on Fox News serves the White House’s purpose – it gives Media Matters something to squawk about to the progressive sheep out there. Fox is the foil, AP/CNN/NYT/WaPo are the supportive outlets that will happily regurgitate whatever spin the White House puts out.

rockmom on May 1, 2014 at 10:26 AM

Oh, BTW, while the media plays nice with the rat-eared wonder look at what Veterans’ Affairs is doing to erase the backlog-

More than 1.5 million medical orders were canceled by the Department of Veterans Affairs without any guarantee the patients received the treatment or tests they needed, the Washington Examiner has found.

Eric K. Shinseki- shame on you! You ought to be fired for what you are doing to veterans and their families. If and when the media ever gets around to investigating your sorry organization I hope you end up in jail for the many ways you’ve lied to Congress about what is going on. You dishonor the uniform you once wore.

Happy Nomad on May 1, 2014 at 10:27 AM

Nearly six out of ten are between 41-60 years of age, and a large majority have been working as a journalist for more than 20 years.

Objection! Facts not in evidence. There have been no signs of “journalism” being practiced anywhere around there for quite a few years now.

bofh on May 1, 2014 at 10:30 AM

Eric K. Shinseki- shame on you! You ought to be fired for what you are doing to veterans and their families. If and when the media ever gets around to investigating your sorry organization I hope you end up in jail for the many ways you’ve lied to Congress about what is going on. You dishonor the uniform you once wore.

Happy Nomad on May 1, 2014 at 10:27 AM

If it’s only about a backlog why couldn’t veterans go to a real doctor or hospital and send the bill to the VA.

crankyoldlady on May 1, 2014 at 10:32 AM

WI will never have ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’, so there is that going for MN.

Bmore on May 1, 2014 at 10:39 AM

The comedienne they are using his year plays an awesome libertarian character on TV, wouldn’t it be wonder if he performs in character?

Cindy Munford on May 1, 2014 at 10:44 AM

crankyoldlady on May 1, 2014 at 10:32 AM

I don’t know all the ends and outs of that stuff but I think the medical coverage is different if you are a retiree or a veteran. My dad was a short timer in WWII and he got a lot of good care from the VA but when it came to the end and an ambulance was called, it went to the closest hospital and there was a bill.

Cindy Munford on May 1, 2014 at 10:47 AM

Half my kingdom for a resurrected MadCon, and the other half for Hawk. Then this thread would be perfect.

Axe on May 1, 2014 at 11:02 AM

Don’t pretend MSM that you are outraged ir something. You wouldn’t ask Obama a tough question if your lives depended on it. The presser with Carney was telling. These emails on Benghazi were dynamite and Carney was on the ropes yet only a few were asking questions. The rest just looked uncomfortable. If this were Bush it would have looked like a bunch of chum in the middle of a shark gathering. The MSM helped create this monster and now are acting surprised that the monster is monstrous. Lay down with dogs wake up with fleas

neyney on May 1, 2014 at 11:03 AM

It’s good to know that Obama has tons of minions watching Twitter to defend his honor but they can’t scrape together a decent research staff to spell words phonetically for him (although in fairness, who knew he couldn’t say corpsman) or vet his speeches for seriously embarrassing errors. Well, seriously is too strong a word and embarrassing only because he is our president. Kind of funny that he’s a dumbass.

Cindy Munford on May 1, 2014 at 11:19 AM

Disgusting sycophants.

pat on May 1, 2014 at 12:43 PM

Obama acts just like any liberal that sees another opinion.

Badly.

Moesart on May 1, 2014 at 1:13 PM

There is a term in the adult entertainment industry that perfectly describes the interaction between the WH and the press.

“Facials”

BobMbx on May 1, 2014 at 3:30 PM

Why do they play along?

This is the first generation of “journalists” who are born of “schools of journalism,” which exploded after Watergate. Previously most reporters were not college grads, but had learned their craft on the street covering garden clubs and festivals and only slowly working their way up the chain to the crime blotter and finally the political beat. Their only agenda was getting the facts and getting them first.

There were only a handful of “Schools of Journalism” when the demand came for more. Most were hastily assembled from the faculty in the English Department which couldn’t be trusted to teach Shakespeare or Northrup Frye or 20th Century American Novels. They had more in common than being the dregs of the department, though, they were to a man hard-core leftist academics and very few had ever spent a day working as a reporter.

So the new generations were taught their readers were stupid, and could not handle the truth. They had to tell the story in the politically correct way if they wanted to “make a difference.” And the news business began a slow and tortured death.

Now we have Vox, formed for the very purpose of turning data into propaganda, which expects the readers to come to it to be indoctrinated. It’s the ultimate end of journalism.

Adjoran on May 1, 2014 at 4:56 PM