Obama and the press

Between Obama and the Press, a piece in the upcoming the New York Times Magazine,
looks at how the relationship between the press and the new president
might shape up — or not… It’s generally agreed, notes writer Mark
Leibovich, “that the traditional media will turn harsher at some
point.” He briefly discusses claims that Obama has had an easy media
ride so far, including quoting one critic that the “media’s “extreme
pro-Obama coverage” was “the most disgusting failure of people in our
business since the Iraq war.”


Robert Gibbs, as chief spokesman for incoming U.S. president Barack
Obama, will “get a daily blistering from the press, nightly ridicule
from comedians and are subjected to the widespread belief that they are
unhelpful, obfuscating puppets — which, of course, they sometimes are.”
Who is he?

  • “.. a journeyman campaign flack who had latched onto Barack Obama’s Senate race four years earlier.”
  • “an affable Alabaman with pit-bullish tendencies behind the scenes in defense of his boss.”

On the Obama campaign’s communications strategy:

  • “an aggressive indifference to (the) insider set.” Said an aide: “We did not do ‘cocktail party’ interviews.”
  • “The campaign highlighted its mastery of new political media that
    included a vast database of e-mail addresses and an ability to quickly
    put up Web sites and use blogs, online video and text messaging.”
  • There is speculation the Obama White House will skirt the
    traditional media “filter” by communicating directly with energized
    activists using its vast database.

Gibbs, unlike any press secretaries for George W. Bush, is close to Obama notes the Times. But there are similarities:

  • Like Bush’s (White House, and presidential campaigns of 2000 and
    2004), Obama’s campaign brain trust was unusually small and
    close-knit…. They prided themselves on never leaking. If there was
    any turf-wrestling, power-grabbing or tantrum-throwing in the Obama
    campaign, it was never for press consumption.”
  • “…reporters and rivals have noted the “Bush-like” tendencies
    the Obama campaign demonstrated in its ability to control information
    … a smattering of reporters claimed that they were left off the Obama
    (campaign) plane in retribution for negative reports they had filed or
    for the perceived sins of their news outlets.”

On “transparency and openness:

  • When Rod Blagojevich, governor of Ilinois was arrested, reporters
    criticized Obama “for dodging questions on contacts between his staff
    and the governor, using the familiar Washington phrase that it would be
    “inappropriate” for him to comment during “an ongoing investigation.””
  • Obama’s team projects a sense of open-book communications by
    making major announcements by emails to voters who provided their
    e-mail and text addresses, setting up web sites specific to political
    aims, and a weekly “video address.”