Friday, July 25, 2014

Get a Clue on Reality of Politics and Journalism, Ron Fournier

For years I've been wondering how the Obama administration does it.  I mean how it has managed near zero pushback from the media?

I know that the media are all liberals and liberals believe that the Democrats' hearts are in the right place.  But still, somewhere, somehow there must have been a liberal joournalist whose desire to make a name for himself should have won out against tribal loyalty.  After all, you don't make a career in journalism by going along to get along.  Not any more, not while dead-tree journalism is flushing down the toilet.

There must me more to the Obama message discipline than tribal loyalty, and the "more" has been slowly dribbling out in the lame-duck years of the Obama presidency.  We've seen that Obama officials go nuclear against journalists that displease them, pushing back with appalling invective in a brazen attempt to intimidate.  And we've seen that the Obamis appeal over the heads of the journalists to the Democratic-contributor suits at the media outlets to keep the junior journos in line.

Now we see, from a frustrated Ron Fournier, that there's another method to the Obama media blitzkrieg: the media minder.  Quoting a Washington Post staffer, he writes:
"Almost every officially sanctioned exchange between reporters and the proverbial 'senior administration officials' is conducted in the presence of a press staffer, even when the interview is 'on background,' meaning the source will not be identified by name."
The purpose of the "press staffer" is not just to intimidate the reporter but also the administration official.
"If you have a minder there, it sits in [a source's] brain that they're supposed to stay on message," said Peter Baker, who covers the White House for the New York Times. "They're less likely to share something other than the talking points."
Ron Fournier's solution to this problem is to "flip the script," to refuse to play by the rules, to make the administration fear the reporter rather than the other way around.

But this is rubbish, at least for reporters in a Democratic administration.  And it violates what I call the "Jack Patera Rule." Or you can call it the "blood in the water" rule.

The story is simple.  Years ago, Jack Patera was the first head coach of the expansion Seattle Seahawks.  Every week the local sports journalists would interview him on various pre- and post-game shows, respectfully asking the usual nuts-and-bolts questions about the game.  But then the day came when Jack Patera was fired as head coach, and we found out that the journalists had never liked him. Then all the dirt came out.  No kidding!  You guys thought Jack was a loser all along?  Why didn't you tell us, you rough, tough, muckracking journos?

Of course the sports journalists didn't tell us.  Because day-to-day their jobs depended on the nuts-and-bolts PR of interviews and canned questions about the team and the game.  If they had started asking difficult questions, then they would have lost their jobs.

Because the whole point of sports journalism is to do PR for the home sports teams.

Until there is blood in the water, and the coach loses his job.  Then it's shark feeding time and the journos can circle in for the kill.

That's why Ron Fournier needs to get a clue on the journalists that cover the Obama administration.  If any journalist "flipped the script" on the Obamis it would be his last interview.  Game over. Career over.  There are lots more journalists where that one came from, hungry journalists willing to play doormat for the next interview.

Until there is blood in the water, and everyone agrees that President Obama is the worst president ever and the officials of the Obama administration are the most useless and incompetent and corrupt ever.  Then you'll see courage returning to the press corps. Then you'll see the sharks going in for the kill.

The only guys that could have "flipped the script" were the Obamis.  They could have said: Look, everyone wants to be able to control the message, but you can go too far.  Isn't the whole point of the media is to shine a light upon the government, and give it some feedback?  That way, maybe, we can avoid making a few real boner mistakes.

But that was never the way that the Obamis approached things.  They wanted to push as many left-liberal policies past the point of no-return as they could, never mind how it was done.  We can assume that they believed in the ratchet effect.  Once you start a government program it is almost impossible to stop it.

And, of course, there is the little matter of power.  Men like power, and will seize it if they can.  What's the point of political power if you don't use it?  The place to learn the game of power when you are merely a bush-league politician is in bullying young bush-league journalists around, because they need you more than you need them.  By the time you have graduated to big-league politics you are practiced enough to bully big-league journalists around!

Which way is best for an administration?  Is it best to use the utmost ferocity in your messaging and make the journos fear you?  Or is it best to ease up a bit and let them criticize you?

Stay tuned for the final two years of the Obama administration to find out.

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