In Content Distribution and Media, Obama Admin. Runs the Show

by Admin on February 20, 2013

President Obama’s campaign proved its adeptness at social media during the run-up to his first term. Now, at the beginning of his second, the administration’s increased capability in harnessing power over the media to push the administration’s agenda is raising concerns.

In a recent Politico article, authors Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei formidably describe Obama as a “puppet-master,” a reference to the administration’s efforts to control his message and image.

While that’s an initiative taken by all presidents, Obama’s media-manipulation tactics have created serious challenges for journalists and reporters. The administration has given almost three times as many interviews as former President George W. Bush, but they’re usually “super-safe, softball interviews” with cable TV networks and programs that allow Obama to control the questions. Conversely, Obama has held brief press availabilities (Q&A’s following photo opportunities or announcements) one third as often as Bush.

Moreover, the Washington, D.C.-based correspondents and reporters who might ask the tough or unpredictable questions are refused interviews. The president reportedly has not granted an interview to The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, POLITICO and others in years.

When he does grant interviews, “he gives interviews not for our benefit, but to achieve his objective,” said Mark Knoller, a veteran CBS News reporter.

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And what’s published likely has been edited and censored. We wrote about the administration’s increasing use of quote approval – granting interviews to reporters on the condition that the administration can edit and censor quotes prior to publishing – and how journalism has taken a frighteningly muzzled turn for the worst.

The pace and extent at which the administration is creating and releasing content is hard for journalists to ignore and refuse. Photos, videos and blog posts chronicling both the president’s day-to-day and his behind-the-scenes policy-making are content the media can no longer obtain itself.

So while the Obama administration is pumping out content on their terms, the media, facing a denial of access, scrambles for whatever it can get and succumbs to whatever’s offered. Consequently, what’s received  and then published as “news” is in fact, the president’s PR, amounting to a free press that’s not so free and journalism with only glimpses of truth.


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