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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Memo to the White House Press Corps

In the media/communications world, the historic timeline can be divided into two very distinct eras: before the internet (BI) and after the internet (AI).

In the BI world, established mainstream entities had the ultimate control over what we read, saw or heard, and the media controlled access to the President through the White House press corps.

When Obama ran for President, his campaign embraced the AI world, and he was able to directly reach voters of all ages by combining new and traditional communications efforts. Obama continues to use the same AI ideas while he governs.

Despite accusations that Obama was becoming “overexposed” due to the increased number of live prime time news conference he demanded from media executives, the White House press corps is now complaining that he is bypassing mainstream media sources for news conferences streamed on YouTube and interviews with the Huffington Post.

“It’s a source of great frustration here,” said Chip Reid, CBS’s White House correspondent. “It’s important for us to hold the President’s feet to the fire.”

NBC White House reporter Chuck Todd called the situation a “shame,” saying the administration is trying to control the message rather than allowing Obama to be seen “unscripted.”

“What’s lost is the ability to get beyond talking points,” said Michael Shear, a White House reporter for The Post. “This is a President and a White House that know how to be very scripted and very on message. . . . Frankly, we make our living studying and following details of these issues so we can zero our questions in on where the real tension lies in a particular issue.”

The White House press corps needs to come up with a strategy to counter Obama’s effort to bypass them. There is a real public policy concern when any elected official can ignore questions from people who have a deeper understanding of an issue than the general public. We need informed debate to understand the significance and context related to issues like health care and the national debt.

Elected officials do need to engage the public, and social media makes this process easier. Mainstream media also needs to join the conversation; they just have yet to find their niche in the AI world.

Read more here.