It Was Ever Thus

Steve Clemons in his Washington Note blog slams “Communication Corrpution at the White House.” According to Clemons, access is being granted to members of the White House press corps on the understanding of favourable coverage. Clemons notes also that “many White House correspondents and other top tier journalists want to write Obama books” and that such books need “inside access” and journalists are only getting it “when favors are part of the arrangement.”

Clemons says: “What I have learned after discussions over the last several days with several journalists who either have regular access to the White House or are part of the White House press corps is that there is a growing sense that access is traded for positive stories — or perhaps worse, an agreement that things learned will not be reported in the near term.”

In his post, Clemons acknowledges in a parenthesis that this might have happened during previous presidencies. From my personal experience, it was hard to secure access from either the White Houses of Bill Clinton or George W. Bush when you were writing critically of them.

When I was a “Whitewater” journalist investigating various allegations being levelled against President Clinton, it was impossible to get phone calls returned let alone any other kind of access. Likewise, journalists who were supportive of the Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq intervention got plenty of one-on-one briefings and those of us who were sceptical found doors firmly shut at both the White House and the Pentagon.

Rumours abounded during the last Presidential election campaign that several of the journalists travelling with Obama were pulling their punches because they were planning books. It would be interesting to hear from a journalist who covered previous Presidencies and is covering also this one whether the problem is worse or the same.

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