November 27, 2016


Trump's media tactics are straight out of the Obama playbook (Kyle Smith, November 26, 2016, NY Post)

Presidential hostility to the media didn't begin Nov. 9. The Obama administration has denied or withheld more Freedom of Information requests than any administration in history. It is "the most secretive White House I have ever been involved in covering" according to former New York Times editor Jill Abramson.

Faking out the press pool as president-elect? Obama did that on Dec. 26, 2008, when he took his daughters to a marine amusement park in Hawaii. Calling in media bigwigs for off-the-record chats in order to steer more favorable coverage without being held accountable for any flubs that might emerge if exact quotation were allowed? Obama did so many times, usually with left-leaning columnists but sometimes with conservative ones as well (as a Jan. 3, 2016 New York Times report detailed).

Trump on Nov. 16 inspired a complaint from the White House Correspondents' Association that his behavior toward the media was "unacceptable" after he went out for a steak without telling reporters. That same WHCA complained about being cut off from Obama's leisure time, too. Following an Obama golfing trip to Florida in February of 2013, The Washington Post reported: "The White House Correspondents' Association lodged a formal protest with White House officials . . . after reporters were barred from seeing any part of Obama's activities, including a round of golf with Tiger Woods."

That same year the WHCA and 37 news organizations submitted a letter to the White House complaining about an ongoing process by the Obama administration to lock out news photographers from key events and instead distribute its own propaganda-style photos directly to the public. That, the photographers said, "amounted to the establishment of the White House's own Soviet-style news service, which gets privileged access to Mr. Obama at the expense of journalists," reported The New York Times.

If Trump were to adopt a policy of playing favorites with right-leaning outlets, Obama fans should be the last ones to complain. "When it comes to granting interviews," The Washington Post wrote of the current president, "he very often favors media that target particular slices of the electorate that are largely aligned with him already: left-leaning comedians, bloggers, YouTubers and podcasters. He is more reluctant to submit to questioning by mainstream news outlets and conservative publications that would push back harder on issues on which his opponents disagree with him."

Obama held fewer press conferences in his first term than either of the two Presidents Bush or President Clinton. He helped get Americans used to the idea that the president wouldn't regularly field questions he might not feel like answering, and Trump has taken that to an extreme: zero formal press conferences since being elected president. (Yet his on-the-record meeting with New York Times editors and writers on Tuesday was effectively a press conference.) presidents do themselves any good by avoiding the press? Why not avoid the scrum but meet with individual reporters from all forms of media daily?

Posted by at November 27, 2016 10:38 AM