It’s not often that the press exposes its own bias. But a Washington Post story this week reveals both the Obama administration’s attempts to censor the news and the media’s complicity in that effort.
For decades, news outlets have relied on pool reports from a rotating group of White House correspondents who follow the president on his travels to public or semipublic events and file quick-and-dirty reports. Their stories are then distributed to other news outlets to use as they wish.
Pool reports can be inane, such as the Sept. 4 dispatch making note of the fact that, while in Wales, “Obama and Prince Charles posed for the cameras and laughed. Obama greeted a group of children who were gathered behind the rope line.”
But occasionally they can be seriously damaging, such as the pool report that alleged President George H.W. Bush’s ignorance of supermarket scanners.
The catch is that the White House itself currently does the distributing of these pool reports to news outlets and government officials — leverage that Obama’s top press officials have used, the Post reveals, “to steer coverage in a more favorable direction.”
The story goes on to note that Obama’s press team has demanded — and received — changes to many pool reports before they would agree to send them out.
Trying to censor the press is bad enough. But the fact that reporters have repeatedly and meekly acquiesced provides clear evidence of their willingness to put partisanship ahead of the public’s right to know.
If you don’t think so, just try to imagine the White House press corps agreeing to such demands from any Republican administration.
While the Post deserves credit for exposing this, it hardly gave the story the prominence it’s due. Instead, the editors buried it below the fold in the paper’s Style section next to a piece about a famous concert violinist performing in a Metro station.
The reporter himself cluelessly dismisses the White House demands as involving “mostly trivial issues” — a claim contradicted by the White House’s very attempt to hide such facts from the public.
The story also raises as many questions as it answers.
What other Obama censorship demands have reporters agreed to? What else isn’t the press telling us about how this administration is run?
More important, why are we finding out about this only now, when it has been going on for years?