Oct. 24th, 2014
RALEIGH ó My first executive editor once about had a coronary when he heard that a reporter in our newsroom had allowed a public official to read a story before we published it. (And, no, it wasnít me.)
That just wasnít done, and the reporter who allowed it had violated one of the strict codes of journalism. To allow a news source to see oneís copy before your editor had seen it, and before it was published, made oneís copy suspect.
Did the source pressure the reporter to make changes, even subconsciously? Did the reporter later de-emphasize this, or emphasize that, as a result of the consultation with the news source? An editor could never know, which is why it just wasnít done.
I know that much has changed in journalism in the 40-plus years since I first began doing it; much of the change has been bad. Still, even with all that, what we learned in late September about the White House press corps was shocking.
The pool reports, those reports by one reporter who is allowed to attend an event and report back to the rest of the press corps, have routinely been perused and even edited by the flacks in the White House.
Hereís what The Washington Post reported on Sept. 23:
Journalists who cover the White House say Obamaís press aides have demanded ó and received ó changes in press-pool reports before the reports have been disseminated to other journalists. They say the White House has used its unusual role as the distributor of the reports as leverage to steer coverage in a more favorable direction.
The disputed episodes involve mostly trivial issues and minor matters of fact. But that the White House has become involved at all represents a troubling trend for journalists and has prompted their main representative, the White House Correspondentsí Association, to consider revising its approach to pool reporting.
So letís think about this for a moment. The Obama administration has been doing this for six years, and suddenly itís an issue? No one has complained to the White House press flacks in all those years about this practice? All of a sudden the White House Correspondentsí Association sees a problem? Can you imagine how quickly the WHCA would have screamed bloody murder had George W. Bush done this?
My first executive editor is turning in his grave. Itís not surprising that the modern-day press also has not batted an eye over the fact that for the first time in history no reporter is embedded with the military in Obamaís foray into Syria against ISIS.
The result is Pravda-like spoon feeds that they lap up without a whimper, just as they meekly let White House press office flunkies edit their pool reports to make President Obama look good.
Jon Ham (@rivlax) is a vice president of the John Locke Foundation and publisher of Carolina Journal.
This Month's Columns
Oct. 24th, 2014
Steer Clear of Government Editorís Pen
Oct. 23rd, 2014
Some Say Paying the Doctor Directly Makes Sense
Oct. 22nd, 2014
Advertising Makes a Difference
Oct. 21st, 2014
Hagans: Itís Worse Than We Thought
Oct. 20th, 2014
State Will Keep the Change
Oct. 17th, 2014
Funding Health Care in the N.C. Budget
Oct. 16th, 2014
Rhetoric, Reality, and DPI Cuts
Oct. 15th, 2014
Stimulus Story Reveals Much
Oct. 14th, 2014
Donít Let Technicality Block Eugenics Compensation
Oct. 13th, 2014
Changes Won't Decide Election
Oct. 10th, 2014
Counties Ask Voters to Raise Their Sales Taxes
Oct. 9th, 2014
When Snoozing Isnít Losing
Oct. 8th, 2014
Spending Has Diminishing Returns
Oct. 6th, 2014
Good News on Taxes
Oct. 3rd, 2014
Womenís ĎAdvocatesí Are Holding Women Back
Oct. 2nd, 2014
Stop Dwelling On The Past
Oct. 1st, 2014
Give Polls a College Try