Brewing Without a Filter
03-25-2009
I have recently come across several articles like this one, which make the case that President Obama is increasingly availing himself of opportunities to circumvent the Washington “media filter” (i.e., the White House press corps, especially reporters from the big media outlets), in order to speak more directly to the American people. Keep in mind that he has only been in office for a little more than 60 days.
 
It is true that advances in technology, and the web in particular, give Obama more opportunities than ever before to use non-traditional forms of media to better target and control his message. But every president in recent memory has made a similar move, using technology and the alternative sources of communications available to him at the time to “go over the heads” of media elites. Yet some in the mainstream press always seem a bit surprised by this maneuver, and inevitably interpret it as a sign their previously good working relationship with the president has broken down.
 
I made the case back in January that this phenomenon is not so much a symptom of any particular president’s problematic relationship with the Washington press corps, but is instead more a function of the institutionalized roles both sides inhabit once the election is over. Presidential candidates, especially non-incumbents, need the media to help make their case to the American public in ways that sitting presidents do not. That can make for a difficult adjustment in the relationship, once everyone has cleared off of the campaign bus and returned to Washington. Viewed in this light, it should have been no surprise to see President Obama deliver his opening remarks directly into the camera at last night’s press conference, rather than to the assembled press corps sitting before him.


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