OK, some quick background to bring anyone up to speed.
- Obama held an off the record meeting between columnists and himself at the WH.
- WaPo dutifully launders the information into a column mocking republicans on ISIS response.
- The NYT decides to find a way around the off the record nature of the conversation for whatever reason resulting in this article that’s basically a summary of the meeting, but includes a tidbit where Obama admits he had no idea of the feelings of Americans, blaming it on a lack of watching Television.
- NYT’s realizes that this makes Obama look horribly out of touch and scrubs that part of the article.
Now there’s been a lot of focus on the NYT’s journalism malpractice here. And it warrants discussing. But let’s not miss the forest for the trees here which is that a bunch of journalists agreed to an off the record meeting with the President of the United States.
This isn’t a low level staffer afraid of his job that you’re pumping for information. Or a wink-and-a-nudge “tell me what you really think” moment in an interview. They agreed outright to an off the record meeting from the start. Would they have agreed to such terms with GWB? Would they agree to such terms with any of the current republican candidates?
Under what conditions is what a president says about his policies not newsworthy?
Now it seems obvious to all of us that they agreed to this because the purpose of the meeting was not journalism, but a unified PR response (see: WaPo article in #2). But we do ourselves and this country a great disservice by not pointing out the toadying nature of the big journalism outlets at every turn. (And don’t give me that whining bullshit about access.) Yes, many people don’t trust the media. But until no one does, or work is not done.