Obama's "Tonight Show" chat was a new low for mainstream media

Why not hold a press conference in the White House briefing room or make a statement in the Rose Garden? Why the informality of a late night entertainment program? And is this yet the latest proof that for those in office, traditional media outlets have become less relevant, while the best means of sharing a message is the one that provides the most direct route to the public – like late night television?

“President Obama uses those kinds of forums mainly because he knows he reaches an audience that is largely friendly to him,” says Richard Benedetto, a former White House correspondent for USA Today and an adjunct professor of politics and journalism at American University. “He also knows that by going on those shows and talking about serious issues, they become less serious.”

By “less serious,” Professor Benedetto says he means less worrisome. Obama can convey a diminished need for the public’s concern by choice of interviewer alone. If the terrorist threat were grave or the relationship with Mr. Putin in real peril, Obama would address Americans from the Oval Office. Or he’d be standing at a podium in the East Room.