Kumbaya, But Verify


Before all us journalists start holding hands and singing the “accessible president” version of Kumbaya, there appears to be some early trouble in paradise.

There were reports Friday that the White House press corps was already getting cranky two days in about access to this White House, which President Obama has pledged would be something of a Glass House when it came to transparency and access and communications.

 The complaints included not being allowed to get video of the second swearing in–there where print and wire service pool reporters–and a flap over favoratism in the print space.

I tried to contact the White House Press Office about this communications problem, but there was nobody available and I couldn’t even leave a message because the voice mailbox was full.

I have also noticed that the raft of e-mails informing me of every movement, pronouncement, and coffee break–which don’t get me wrong, I appreciate–has no contact phone number or person on it, which makes it somewhat tougher to follow up.

That reminds me of some of the Web-based groups that seem only to want you to contact them via e-mail. I hope that is not the Obama administration’s take on access. The Internet is wonderful, but in cannot replace the one-on-one contact of a phone conversation.

It is obviously early in the game, and I was even told by a group trying to do a mass call-in on his first day that the White House comment line had been turned off by the previous tenants–a bit of mischief akin to the missing typewiter W’s, perhaps.

Anyway, while so far my hands are red from appluauding the noble goals about openness and access, we must see if they achieve them.

As the Reporters Committee For Freedom Of the Press put it at the end of their laudatory posting on Obama’s pledge to take FOIA requests seriously (the bolding is mine): “That this message was issued on Day One is a huge step toward opening access to the federal government. And it is crucial that this message came from the very top. However, the public will need to be no less diligent in utilizing the laws to request information and continuing to hold this new administration accountable just as any other.”

Can I get an amen?