Editorial: Hailing Down the Chief2/25/2013 12:00:00 AM Eastern
The Obama Administration is all about transparency
and access. At least that is the talk. OK, and some
action. The president has put reams of government info online, launched an online effort to allow the public to file petitions, and he
makes pool reports of White House activities available outside the pool.
But Obama himself has not been as accessible as he might be to the national
media of late—that is, if you ask some of the White House correspondents who
cover him, along with a national broadcasting and cable business publication of
As a magazine and website that serves local TV stations, we can’t complain
about the president choosing to make his pitch to the public on the sequester
debacle through local TV station news outlets, or what CNN’s Wolf Blitzer called
an “end-around the national press,” as he did last week.
Certainly the National Association of Broadcasters wasn’t complaining. It issued
an e-mail alert, just in case journalists on the media beat had missed the point.
Under the headline “The Power of Local Broadcasting,” the NAB said it wanted to
make sure we knew that the president was using the power of local TV stations
to “get his message out on the harm that sequestration could do to the economy,”
particularly those covering the incentive auctions and the “FCC efforts to reclaim
additional spectrum from local TV broadcasters….”
But that targeted local TV outreach, combined with the lack of White House
press corps access to Obama’s golf outing with Tiger Woods last week, has drawn
White House press secretary Jay Carney, a former White House reporter himself,
deflected that in a press conference with some pretty impressive figures. President
Obama has held 35 press conferences, compared to George W. Bush’s 19 over eight
years. He has also given 591 interviews, including 104 with major TV networks.
“So I think that it is clear that we are making an effort to provide access to
make sure that the president is being questioned by reporters, and anchors, and
others, and we’ll continue to do that,” Carney said.
But for all those numbers, the press corps was not feeling the love last week,
questioning the transparency the administration is always so high on and pointing
out some recent meetings that they had not received read-outs on until later
or had not been informed of in advance. Carney said “there’s never been a White
House press corps that’s ever been wholly satisfied with the level of access that
they’ve been afforded.” Perhaps, but we know where they are coming from.
Although candidate Obama agreed to weigh in with this magazine on communications
issues, the White House press office turned down subsequent requests for interviews,
including on the digital transition and the president’s relative silence on that
issue —even though it affects millions of minority, senior and low-income viewers.
But we take Carney at his word that the White House is making an effort to
provide access, and so will publicly renew our request for an interview about
broadband deployment, cybersecurity or any of the other communications-related
issues that they want to, well, tee up.