Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Beltway media finessed

MORE ON THE news conference:    As one who labored through too many Q&A's with public figures, I now find myself more engaged in the tone of the  show than the substance.   And with Barack Obama, the inquisitors are going to have to be prepared  with a well insulated gotcha question if they want to stay in the ring with him.  On a couple of occasions he made simple basket catches on intended hard balls from his audience.  ("I  like to know what I am talking about before I speak,"  he told a reporter who wondered why the president tardily took a day or two to respond to the AIG bonuses.  The media folks have not experienced such finesse in, oh...8 years? ) 

Presidential  news conferences are not the same as a one-on-one drill of  a VIP in the privacy of his or her own office.  The event flies around the world in seconds and reporters are quite aware that they can be an instantaneous VIP, too, with a hot-wire encounter, for better or worse, with the speaker at the lectern.  Television has created  much of the posturing that might occur when one reporter is acknowledged and another ignored.  (Immediately after Obama's conference, it was reported that he had snubbed the major print media. How do you like that?) 

But given the fact that Obama has been in office no more than a couple of months, the Washington media seemed more aggressive than it chose to be with George Bush and the weeks and months  (and even years)  that followed 9/11. The mighty Washington Post gave precedence to pro-invasion stories over those that suggested we were headed into a quagmire. War critic Phil Donahue's TV show was canceled  by his network, which decided his voice was inappropriate for the times.  In short, the Beltway media, including assistance from liberals, failed to serve their calling,  and the presidential news conferences  - the few that occurred - and the talking heads that supinely gave Bush the benefit of the doubt,  aptly demonstrated that. 

So now we'll watch to see how the Obama years are played out vis-a-vis the media herd.  But, please, no more questions about why he hasn't called upon Americans to make sacrifices - certainly not from a well-paid TV newsman who currently has a job.   

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