Press Corps Obama’s Stenographers?

U.S. President Barack Obama faces the media as he addresses his first news conference as president in the East Room of the White House in Washington, February 9, 2009.

U.S. President Barack Obama faces the media as he addresses his first news conference as president in the East Room of the White House in Washington, February 9, 2009.

Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports that,

In his first weeks in office, President Barack Obama shut down his predecessor’s system for reviewing regulations, realigned and expanded two key White House policymaking bodies and extended economic sanctions against parties to the conflict in the African nation of Cote D’Ivoire.

Despite the intense scrutiny a president gets just after the inauguration, Obama managed to take all these actions with nary a mention from the White House press corps.

The moves escaped notice because they were never announced by the White House Press Office and were never placed on the White House web site. They came to light only because the official paperwork was transmitted to the Federal Register, a dense daily compendium of regulatory actions and other formal notices prepared by the National Archives. They were published there several days after the fact.

Gernstein sees a mini scandal here: “Such notices were routinely released by the White House press office during prior administrations — making their omission all the more unusual given Obama’s oft-repeated pledges of openness.”

But isn’t the real scandal a White House press corps whose apparent sole means of reportage is waiting around for the administration to feed them scraps?  It’s one thing for amateur bloggers with day jobs to do that but aren’t professional journalists supposed to wear out shoe leather, make phone calls, and otherwise, you know, engage in reporting?

Photo: Reuters

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    But isn’t the real scandal a White House press corps whose apparent sole means of reportage is waiting around for the administration to feed them scraps? It’s one thing for amateur bloggers with day jobs to do that but aren’t professional journalists supposed to wear out shoe leather, make phone calls, and otherwise, you know, engage in reporting?

    Well, no. The very reason that ‘alternate establishment” I spoke of in another thread exists, is beacuse the press has always fallen down on that task… having redefined themselves as the publicity arm of the Democrat party.

  2. JKB says:

    The White House “Press” Corps got the word early on. Ask inconvenient questions and you get forced to the back of the bus. Look for CNN and others who emulate them to excel since they have all that experience collaborating with the other Saddam Hussein back in the day. Maybe their just conditioned not to question those with Hussein in their name?

  3. I blame Bush. If he hadn’t created a cycle of dependancy of the White House press corps, forcing them to be victims, then this would never have happened.

  4. Alex Knapp says:

    having redefined themselves as the publicity arm of the Democrat party.

    Please. The press did plenty of water-carrying for the Republic Party when they were in power, too. Remember all that New York Times reporting on “mobile biowarfare labs” in Iraq that, it turns out, never existed? The White House press corps bows and scrapes to whomever is in the White House.

  5. Bithead says:

    Remember all that New York Times reporting on “mobile biowarfare labs” in Iraq that, it turns out, never existed?

    In that event, Alex, all that can be said of it is that they were, as was the administration, working with the only available information.

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  7. MM says:

    The beltway press is lazy. I don’t think this is entirely their fault as there are so many people in washington who are willing to leak, that they expect to be handed stories on a silver platter. When they don’t get them, they don’t really know how to react. Ultimately, the Washington political press corps are like a pack of wild animals that have been fed by people most of their adult lives. They have the vague memories of how to hunt for a story, but nothing more.

    This is also why they talk to their friends and neighbors and assume that upper-middle class political wonks are a good microcosm of the nation.

    And apparently Bithead is taking the argument that the press act as stenographers when they don’t question things he disagrees with. When they don’t question things that Bithead *likes*, they are doing the best they can.

    That’s certainly…..a viewpoint.

  8. Bithead says:

    And apparently Bithead is taking the argument that the press act as stenographers when they don’t question things he disagrees with. When they don’t question things that Bithead *likes*, they are doing the best they can.

    And when, exactly, has that ever happened?

  9. Drew says:

    “but aren’t professional journalists supposed to wear out shoe leather, make phone calls, and otherwise, you know, engage in reporting?”

    Laddie, c’m over here an sit on me knee.

  10. Bandit says:

    What do you mean ‘redefined themselves as the publicity arm of the Democrat party.
    ‘? Wouldn’t they have had to have been defined differently at some point?

  11. Bithead says:

    Wouldn’t they have had to have been defined differently at some point?

    Why?

  12. tom p says:

    Remember all that New York Times reporting on “mobile biowarfare labs” in Iraq that, it turns out, never existed?

    In that event, Alex, all that can be said of it is that they were, as was the administration, working with the only available information.

    Bit, if you ever said something that you actually had to stand behind(you know, no wiggle room) you would have a lot more credibility.

    As is, your bias comes thru, but you don’t have the guts to actually stand behind anything you say. (Ya know, like actually elaborate on and defend what you said???) The best defense, is a good offense, eh?

    Be a man for once.

  13. Bithead says:

    Tom;
    When has my position on that point ever been altered? The information they were passing on at the time was the only info anyone… including the White House, and any number of foreign intel services, apparently… had.

    Perhaps it’s time for you to stand being what you’re saying by explaining to us what the bleep you’re complaining about, here.

    And by the way, for the first time in years, decades, in fact, that I cut the NYT a little slack and you have a cow? What’s up with THAT?

    Perhaps it’s just you don’t like the conclusions I draw from the available facts? Under what conditions short of obvious bias and disconnection from reality could you draw any other conclusions at the time, given what we knew at the time?