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

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Media Fine Whine

Nico Pitney has consistently provided the best coverage of any American journalist on the Iranian uprising. Better and more widespread than any major news organization, often based on primary sources, consistent, deep, and comprehensive. This is Huffington Post's finest hour, and they're not doing anything particularly revolutionary. They just set a reporter up with knowledge of social networking and liveblogging and put him to work. And he's performed brilliantly.

Today, he got to participate in the White House press conference, and before attending he solicited questions from Iranians on what to ask the President if he were called upon. The White House obviously noticed this, considering he's been the number one source for news and information about Iran, and wanted to reward him for his work as well as inject a different perspective into the questioning. So President Obama called on Pitney and was asked about what circumstances under which he would accept an Ahmadinejad victory, a difficult but necessary question to be asking a President who previously wanted to engage with the Islamic Republic.

“Under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad, and if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn't that a betrayal of the — of what the demonstrators there are working towards?”

Out of this, the traditional media devises a conspiracy that Pitney is somehow the Jeff Gannon of the Obama Presidency, and that his question was chorepgraphed and therefore illegitimate. The White House quickly released a statement that they had contacted Pitney beforehand:

We did reach out to him prior to press conference to tell him that we had been paying attention to what he had been doing on Iran and there was a chance that he’d be called on. And, he ended up asking the toughest question that the President took on Iran. In the absence of an Iranian press corps in Washington, it was an innovative way to get a question directly from an Iranian.

That's the whole point that people like Michael Calderone don't want to face. Pitney asked the TOUGHEST possible question to the President about Iran. If the question was "coordinated," as Calderone darkly suggests, it would sound something like "isn't what you're doing on Iran completely awesome and shouldn't John McCain apologize to you?" Instead, Pitney offered a policy question, from an Iranian, that forced Obama to engage with his own rhetoric about justice and bearing witness to the events.

Notably, the last time a Huffington Post reporter got called on, putting the traditional media's panties in a bunch, San Stein ALSO asked a very tough question to Obama about establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the Bush torture regime. Maybe the press corps isn't pissed about the Huffington Post getting called on, they're pissed about those reporters schooling them at the only thing they do all day.

Marcy Wheeler notes:

As to Calderone's bitching, it's out of line for several reasons. First, if I knew that Nico was hoping to ask a question from an Iranian, then chances are the people paid to know these things at the White House knew. What better tribute to democracy and free speech could the White House make than to allow this question to be posed to the President?

And, after all, one primary focus of the presser was Iran. There are few who would argue that Nico's reporting--his tireless compilation of news coming in from both traditional and citizen media--hasn't been far and away the best minute-to-minute news on the Iranian crisis (to take nothing away from the people offering superb commentary and expertise, which I consider something different). Maybe the Politico's media reporter has missed it, but Nico's doing something pretty historic with his reporting on Iran. So even assuming the White House isn't as up-to-speed as I am, how hard do you think it would have been for them to guess that Nico, who has been living and breathing the Iranian crisis since it started, would ask a question about Iran?

I mean, c'mon. To try to turn this into a scandal is to assume that both the White House and Politico itself are a lot stupider than I think they are.

I don't think you can possibly assume that about Politico.

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