White House Sends Press On Wild Goose Chases

Tony Snow’s subterfuge with regard to the President’s recent itinerary on his “surprise” visit to Iraq apparently is not the only time the White House has misled the press corps on presidential travel plans. CBS White House Correspondent Mark Knoller is a little miffed that he and his colleagues have been shipped off to destinations far removed from the President on days when newsworthy events took place.

“Three times in recent weeks, those of us who were covering the President’s trips to Kennebunkport, Maine; Crawford, Texas; and today to Bellevue, Washington were totally out of position for the big stories of the day.”

In the first instance, reporters were whisked off to Maine and missed the President’s press conference in DC. Then they were sent to Crawford while Bush stayed in Washington to announce the resignation of Karl Rove. After that, they were flying to Seattle while the President went to Crawford to make his first comments on the resignation of Alberto Gonzales.

Does it seem a little like the White House Press Office is intentionally diverting reporters to keep them away from the President when important news is being released? To be sure, there will be somebody at the event with Bush, but it will not be the assigned correspondent with the most knowledge and relevant experience covering the President. This leaves Bush facing a bunch of second stringers who will likely be less aggressive and less probing. That’s exactly as the President would want it.

If I were a White House correspondent, I would start to be more suspicious when asked to get aboard the press plane. Given the pattern of behavior demonstrated here, I would wonder what they might be sending me away from.

All of this would be troubling all by itself, but the impact of this news is somewhat diluted by Knoller’s admission that the press is often not in close proximity to presidential newsmaking anyway.

“Truth be told, on most presidential trips, many of us in the press corps cover his statements and actions without actually laying eyes on him. We hear his statements on audio feeds from the White House Communications Agency or see live video transmissions arranged by the TV Networks. We get written reports from our colleagues in the pool with the President and we get transcripts of his statements from the White House stenographers.”

That revelation of media disengagement may explain why they so often miss significant stories or misreport those that they cover. What are they being paid for? If this is all that’s required to perform the duties of a network correspondent, I could be reporting the news from my home – and for a lot less than these guys are pulling in.

The American news consumers are the ones being hurt by this. We are left with a media that is often AWOL, and when they do report for duty, they are easily duped into detours that remove them from the events they are supposed to be covering. As citizens we should be outraged and we should make our opinions known. The media are not doing the jobs we expect of them, or deserve from them. If they continue to fail to perform, we need to find a way to fire them


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