Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Media and The Game

The new President spends a great deal of time reminding the media that he’s on to them. So far, when asked a question like; “Well you didn’t like Hillary during the campaign, what changed your mind?” Or , “ You said Hillary had no international experience, she just had tea around the world, what makes her competent now?” He usually says that he knows they are trying to be cute with a question like that. Then he goes on to answer the question, like in this case, “Things are different in a Primary then they are after the election.” And he has totally confidence in her ability.

Today, at the Governor’s meeting, he told the Governor’s that once the media was out of the room they could really talk. This is, of course, the truth. But I don’t know how I feel about making so clear that he’s on to them and their access will be limited. And I know that he knows that they know, but still, it makes me a little uncomfortable. I like the game where the media think they are privy to actual information and all the questions they ask during a press conference are relevant.

Those of us who have worked on campaigns understand that things are said during the Primaries and even the General Election, that may help the candidate to win a race, but in the end, everyone is, if not friends, cordial. What were the chances of McCain getting an appointment in the Obama Administration? Not great, although who knows. It could still happen. The CIA is still available. But the point is, once the election was over, only Sara Palin continued to do any bad mouthing. And it’s pretty effective in Georgia – which you can see if you stand on your tip toes in Alaska. My point is that we all know Hillary is competent—beyond competent. And of course things were said (by all the candidates) during the Primaries, that weren’t true. So when the media ask the question, they already know the answer, but they ask because – if they are TV reporters – they make more money if they have air time. And if they are print journalists, their papers like that they are recognized by the President. It is an indication that they have access and if the White House ever wants to leak a story or share information, the people who are familiar are most likely to get the story.

Still, in Washington, the ability to play the game is often far more important than the final result—whatever that may be. George Bush often (well not often because he hardly had a press conference but when he did) he joked with the media. Pretending to like them and even listen earnestly to their questions. He didn’t like it when the questions were too difficult or someone insisted on an answer and then he got testy, but he continued to play the game.

Despite his Washington and lengthy campaign experience, it doesn’t look like President Obama will have the patience to answer what are often pretty ridiculous often repetitious questions. Does he expect the media to change? No he doesn’t, but he has learned that he can circumvent the mainstream media quite effectively. And, I think, that has shaken up the traditional Washington media corp.

The only problem with new media (blogs, You tube and the like), is that they only recently started to impact on public opinion. Certainly they helped the President in Waiting to win the election, because they helped to build a constituency, but what will happen once the Inauguration is over and the President is sworn in. Will they maintain their place of power with the White House Press Office, or will they be relegated to the rear of the room. Not really caring if they have traditional access as long as they have a computer and access to the information. Will they learn to play the game. Will the President try to play the game. Will the public enjoy watching the game?

People were pretty tired of being inundated by political news 24/7. With the economy in shambles and wars raging all over the world, people just want solutions not games. But they also want information about the solutions. It’s a puzzlement. But to tell the truth (and what else is there), I still like a game or two in my news. We're Just Sayin...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think it was totally legitimate to ask Obama the question how did his view on Senator Clinton change during the course of the campaign. It might have been silly to expect a proper answer to it, but I didn't like the way the Presdent-elect brushed it off as just press' fun and games. As CNN's Campbell Brown put it, people should be able to know when candidates mean what they say and when they don't. It turns out Obama didn't really 'mean' all those things he said about Clinton. It would be nice to know what else didn't he mean.

Disclosure: I'm a huge foreign Obama supporter.

Oh, and cheers for a great blog.