As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Beltway Bubble

Just a coda to this "Nico Pitney asked a planted question" nonsense. I've never seen such an overt expression of jealousy in all my life. With the possible exception of Roger Cohen (who's great today, and will probably win a Pulitzer), nobody in America has had the kind of coverage on the Iran story that Nico has had. Certainly not Dana Milbank, who has spent the last few days embarrassing the entire profession of journalism with his foppish, bitchy gossip segment that summarized the Village's belief that politics is a game and they're the sportscasters covering it. So for him to dare to criticize the journalism of anyone else is completely nonsensical.

Asserting that President Obama's June 23 press conference included "prepackaged entertainment," Dana Milbank wrote in his June 24 Washington Post column that Huffington Post national editor Nico Pitney was "a planted questioner" who asked "a preplanned question." Milbank further wrote: "The use of planted questioners is a no-no at presidential news conferences, because it sends a message to the world -- Iran included -- that the American press isn't as free as advertised." But while Milbank noted that "Pitney said the White House" was "not aware of the question's wording," he did not quote or paraphrase the question itself, which Guardian America editor Michael Tomasky described as "an important and tough question that got right to the heart of the matter." The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen called it "a terrific question that the president wasn't anxious to answer," while's Glenn Greenwald referred to it as "one of the toughest questions at the Press Conference."

Andrew Sullivan exposes this dichotomy further, with Nico writing about a fairly important struggle by millions of Iranians, and Milbank gossiping about JibJab videos. Never mind the fact that Milbank is simply lying to make this whole thing appear more insidious; his interest in journalistic integrity doesn't pass the laugh test.

...Ari Melber attacks this from a different angle.

Since Obama was inaugurated, many media critics, citizen journalists and web activists have been calling on him to answer meaningful, unfiltered questions from citizens. After watching the Obama Campaign in action, people saw the potential for deeper, direct engagement between wired citizens and a President who gets new media and believes in transparency [...]

Thus it was likely -- and hardly surprising -- that a citizen question would be posed at a presidential press conference. Given the news, it happened to come from Tehran, not Tennessee.

So the complaints of several Washington reporters are not only odd, but hard to take at face value. It is particularly rich for reporters to protest that the White House told Pitney he might be tapped for a question. Every day, a few top White House correspondents have special access in press briefings, while many reporters are never called on (seating charts are powerful). And many Washington reporters routinely, secretly grant the White House blind quotes and restrictive ground rules in exchange for access. By contrast, Pitney transparently told readers about his dealings with the White House, in real time, on his blog. The public would be better served if all media outlets took that tack, publishing any arrangements, restrictions or ground rules along with every article or interview. (Readers would be interested -- media criticism and scrutiny tends to draw traffic across the spectrum.)

Greenwald, too.

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