Better Angels

"...all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." ---Abraham Lincoln, First Innaugural Address

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Liberating the WH Press Corpse

Over at Nieman Watchdog Dan Froomkin has a great, thoughtful piece up about the White House press pool and the unbreakable veneer of the Bush Administration. In addition to the usual complaints about the inaccesability of the President and the circumlocutions of Scott McClellan, Froomkin also offers a practical plan for reporters to become better questioners. His prescription for the potted plants in the breifing room? Get tough with Scotty and the Prez. Either get the answers or make the White House look uncooperative in the process:
At this point, the best thing reporters can do is ask questions so simple and direct that Bush's almost inevitable evasion is obvious to everyone. And then they should repeatedly remind their readers and viewers that the questions remain unanswered. Maybe Bush can be prodded and shamed into meeting with the press more often. And maybe White House reporters -- who are, after all, among the best of their profession -- can craft the occasional question that actually prompts the president to reflect upon a decision, recall an event or reaction, give some insight into his judgment, or even spill some beans.
This should be required reading for any reporter who has ever come within a hundred feet of the White House, and will strike some familiar chords among those of us who follow Holden's Obsession with the Gaggle.
Even more of a charade these days are the daily briefings held by White House press secretary Scott McClellan, whose robotic adherence to repeating the predetermined messages of the day -- no matter what questions come his way --has driven some correspondents to despair. Only narcissists and cranks could possibly feel they are getting much out of asking a question at a McClellan press briefing. Not coincidentally, the cranks are increasingly sitting at the front of the briefing room and getting called upon, in part because some big media organizations don't even bother to fill their assigned chairs anymore. What's the point?
The piece itself is worth taking a trip over to NiemanWatchdog, a relatively new site sponsored by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. What makes it all the more fun to read is the comments section, where there is a typically toady response from one of the above "cranks," GOP plant Jeff Gannon of Talon News.