With a couple of exceptions, the White House press corps has not exactly held Barack Obama’s feet to the fire during his briefings, but US News thinks that may change. Reporters from print venues have especially become disenchanted with the Obama administration’s handling of the media, Kenneth Walsh reports, thanks to clumsy question-planting and an obvious preference for television reporters. Since Robert Gibbs won’t budge, expect print reporters to start dishing out the skepticism:
Print reporters in the White House press corps are seething at perceived slights against them by President Obama and his team. Many print journalists see their role being diminished as Obama and his aides seem to lavish attention on television anchors and reporters and on liberal bloggers, and this is raising the adversarial tone at the daily briefings of Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Monday, Gibbs was asked pointedly if Obama would call on the same news organizations that he has chosen in his past news conferences—about a dozen—and members of the press corps took this as a sign that the print reporters aren’t going to let the preferential-treatment issue die. …
Reporters at Gibbs’s briefing Monday also raised objections to Obama’s practice of preselecting those he calls on and operating from a list. Many reporters consider this too manipulative and too rigidly orchestrated. But Gibbs declined to agree to make any changes.
The only print reporter who let that show in his work was the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, who reamed the White House and the Huffington Post for setting up a question about Iran. Walsh says that the press conferences have become more adversarial, although apart from Jake Tapper (ABC), Major Garrett (Fox), and a couple of good moments for Chip Reid, most of the White House press corps still seem stuck in “How awesomely awesome are you?” mode. Tommy Christopher asks tougher questions. For that matter, so do bloggers on conference calls, even if they don’t realize it.
Color me skeptical until I see it for myself. With Obama’s ratings going down faster than a remake of “The Montefuscos”, they may feel that they have more of an opening now, and perhaps the print-media reporters will continue to have chips on their shoulders, but these are the same people who avoided asking tough questions on the campaign trail. They worked hard to give Obama a pass, and on health-care reform, I suspect that many of them sympathize with Obama’s aims and don’t want to trigger a killer gotcha moment that puts an end to his agenda centerpiece.
Keep an eye on Tapper and Garrett for the tough questions, but don’t expect much from anyone else.