"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
What's that you say? You say that I could just stop drinking my lunch, all by myself, without waiting for everyone else to tag along?
That's just silly. It would never work. It would be like asking the D.C. press corps to stop printing propaganda that they get off the record, background only, instead of doing the sensible thing and publicly wring their hands over the problem of anonymous government flackery - all the while continuing to print or broadcast it exactly as spooned out:
Washington bureau chiefs have launched a new effort to stop off-the-record and background-only White House press briefings with a campaign aimed at getting fellow D.C. journalists to demand that more briefings be on the record.
Among other efforts, they pressed the demand with White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan on Friday. "We tried to make the point that readers are sick to death of unnamed sources," said Ron Hutcheson, a White House correspondent for Knight Ridder. "Scott listened and he said he would chew on it for a few weeks, but everybody felt like he would give it consideration...."
In an e-mail to several dozen bureau chiefs Monday, a group of top D.C. bureau bosses urged their colleagues to push more for on-the-record briefings when government officials deem them to be on background only.
"We'd like to make a more concerted effort among the media during the month of May to raise objections as soon as background briefings are scheduled by any government official, whether at the White House, other executive agencies or the Hill," the e-mail said, in part. "Please ask your reporters to raise objections beforehand in hopes of convincing the official to go public -- ask them to explain why the briefing has to be on background. If that doesn't work, object again at the top of the briefing -- at least those objections will be part of the transcript. The broadcast networks will also press for briefings to be open to camera and sound."
The e-mail went to more than 40 D.C. bureau chiefs. Those who signed the e-mail were: Susan Page of USA Today, Clark Hoyt of Knight Ridder, Andy Alexander of Cox Newspapers, Robin Sproul of ABC News, Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times, Philip Taubman of The New York Times, and Sandy Johnson of Associated Press.
I understand that it might be difficult to swim against the current - after all, it's not like USA Today, Knight Ridder, Cox Newspapers, ABC News, the Times twins (NY and LA), and the AP, collectively, have much influence over how the news gets reported - but if they did, then maybe they could just stop reporting "news" gathered at off-the-record backgrounders. Unfortunately, the "big boys" of the press corps (I guess that would be Talon News) have a deathgrip on the lesser media, and the small fry have no choice but to follow the leader, even if their readers and viewers are "sick to death" of it.
Now, if you'll excuse me, it's lunch time.