Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I thought this morning’s news was somewhat amusing. The White House press corps was up in arms over the weekend after they weren’t granted a photo-op of President Obama playing golf with Tiger Woods in Florida.

It has spawned a host of articles – one calling Obama a “puppet master” for purportedly manipulating the press – disconcerting only because there was a flood of “serious” matters that begged discussion from the White House.

There was for instance the “leaked” immigration reform legislation that the President would reportedly push forward to Congress if the current bipartisan efforts of the “Gang of 8” fail to take off. That drew a quick rebuke from lawmakers, prompting the White House to deny it was behind the leak.

From experience, reporters covering Presidents appear to be more sensitive and zealous about access to their primary news source. During the Aquino I administration, Palace scribes were christened the “brat pack” for reasons that were only too obvious for “Tita Cory’s” media handlers.

They would complain constantly, berate, cajole, threaten and humor their way to a story. But they got the story out.

When Aquino II spokesman Edwin Lacierda visited Washington DC sometime back, we asked him about complaints from some in the Malacanang Press Corps about his boss’s emasculated calendar that apparently left few opportunities for reporters to submit a copy that at least had an even chance to make the front page.

He insisted that the President has a packed schedule that isn’t always reflected in the calendar handed out to the press.

Fox News’ Ed Henry, who currently heads the White House Press Corps, stressed that their beef with President Obama wasn’t about the golf game. But it’s raised eyebrows from others.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer blasted the media for what others have described as “whining”, calling it “the biggest non-story” since the Kardashian weddings.

“If the guy wants to play golf, the guy deserves a couple of days off. He wants privacy — big deal. I don’t understand what the story is and what the outrage is,” he said on Fox News.

“You want to watch him shank and slice?” he added. “What we’ll do is look at his score card and that’s enough. I don’t think Obama’s out there with Tiger receiving marital advice. I think he’s out there receiving advice on how to line up a putt.”

“The balance of power used to be much more in favor of the mainstream press,” Mike McCurry, who was press secretary to President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal was quoted on Politico.com.
The website’s highly cited Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen observed, “The president has shut down interviews with many of the White House reporters who know the most and ask the toughest questions. Instead, he spends way more time talking directly to voters via friendly shows and media personalities. Why bother with The New York Times beat reporter when Obama can go on ‘The View’?”

Technology has helped transform those dealings today, especially with the wider use and growing reliance on social networks as well as blogs.

The White House, according to Politico.com, “has taken old tricks for shaping coverage (staged leaks, friendly interviews) and put them on steroids using new ones (social media, content creation, precision targeting). And it’s an equal opportunity strategy: Media across the ideological spectrum are left scrambling for access.”

Perhaps these are straits only journalists on the presidential beat can appreciate (or be so enraged and indignant). So to them, our unsolicited advice is “it’s alright to be a brat”. 

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