News Cycle

A look at the news, politics and journalism in today’s 24-hour media.

White House Bans Press From Award Ceremony by News Group for Obama

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See if you can discover the irony here.

President Barack Obama was scheduled receive an award for “Newsmaker of the Year” from the National Newspaper Publishers Association this afternoon. He was scheduled from the federation of black community newspapers in a ceremony at the White House.

But the press is banned from covering the event.

The president’s official schedule states:

“Later in the afternoon, the President and the First Lady will attend a reception with the National Newspaper Publisher Association in the State Dining Room, where they will be presented the Newsmaker of the Year award. This event is closed press.”

Why would any news organization even participate in a ceremony that bars the press? So much for transparency. Maybe there is a reason?

Well, there appears to be a quid pro quo involved. FOX News is reporting that Josh Earnest, deputy White House press secretary, has told it that Obama’s reception is a “special access” event that the representatives of African-American community newspapers will cover as participants, and as such is not open to daily White House reporters.

The trouble with that is the normal journalistic standard would be that participants not cover themselves in any kind of events. That’s what public relations directors are for.

Stories of the event, Earnest told FOX, will be published in African-American community newspapers across the country and in that sense the event will be “covered.”

Well, covered by participants, who have an interest in positive coverage. Why not skip the middle man and have Robert Gibbs write the copy?

Earnest also said the White House says the National Newspaper Publishers Association is giving the award to the president and is therefore being given its own event because of its historical focus on African-American issues.

For its part, the National Newspaper Publishers Association has not commented on its lack of knowledge of how a news organization is supposed to operate. It’s bad enough when corporations and government hide behind close doors, it’s worse when the very groups that are entrusted to advocate on behalf of the public for more transparency participate in such antics.

I would not, by the way, expect much concern from the usual mainstream media. Now, if President George Bush had received an award for “Newsmaker of the Year” from FOX News and closed off the ceremony from the White House Press Corps, I’m sure The New York Times and MSNBC would have had a field day. (Which, under that scenario, they would had been justified.)

This manipulation of the press is growing day by day at the White House. The Obama administration has a running feud with traditional news-gathering techniques. Yes, this is a small event of no great importance to many people. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of award ceremonies at the White House every year, few of which get any kind of notice. But the trend of this administration is to tightly control the message. See here, here, here and here. This is not change in Washington that benefits a democracy, and it’s a trend that needs to be reversed.


Written by newscycle

March 20, 2009 at 6:56 pm

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