On Wednesday, the White House took the historic step to involve four journalists from outside Washington D.C. in the Daily Press Briefing, but it didn’t sit well with many establishment media types inside the Beltway and New York City who complained they were too soft for their liking.
Ahead of the briefing, CNN’s Dylan Byers reported that the decision upset some in the White House press corps, fretting that press secretary Sean Spicer would use them to divert attention from what in-house reporters wanted to talk about.
“The addition of outside questioners has unnerved some members of the existing White House press corps, who fear the Trump administration is using the initiative to dilute critical questions from veteran journalists with softballs from supportive outsiders,” Byers explained.
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Seeming to bolster this was Byers’s citing of how questioner Jeff Jobe from a chain of south central Kentucky newspapers was a Trump supporter:
Jobe describes himself as a Trump supporter -- "Absolutely, I endorsed him," he said. And he has run for elected office as a Republican twice, once in 2008 and again in 2014. But he stressed that his only intention is to serve his readers: "I want it to be of value to my state and to South Central Kentucky," he said. "I want to bring it home, if I can."
So the idea of bringing outside voices in the briefing resonated with Jobe. He said he feels that too many reporters approach press conferences in search of soundbites and "gotcha" headlines, and that he welcomes the opportunity to bring in what he described as a more patient, thoughtful perspective.
As far as CNN goes, the network is rather hypocritical. This is the same network that now employs Jeff Zeleny, who asked then-President Barack Obama this in April 2009 at an official press conference: “During these first 100 days, what has surprised you the most about this office, enchanted you the most about serving in this office, humbled you the most and troubled you the most?”
CNN is also the same network that aired a global warming question from a cartoon named Billiam the Snowman during a 2008 Democratic presidential debate. So, there’s that.
Once Jobe, two local news reporters, and conservative radio talk show host Lars Larson asked their questions, our friends at the Daily Caller found a flurry of criticisms by petulant media types.
“Do reporters have to promise to pander to get Skype access to the White House press briefings,” LGBT Think Progress editor Zack Ford complained.
“Jesus. WH's Flynn comes out and threatens Iran. Leaves. They give 1st q to Skype seat, a pre-canned question has NOTHING to with Iran,” fretted NBC News analyst Kevin Baron.
Here are a few others that the Daily Caller's Christian Datoc pulled together.
Collum Borchers of The Washington Post’s The Fix blog also had concerns, admitting that it “delivered on the promise of new perspectives — but also showed how the Trump administration could use the inclusion of remote questioners to its advantage.”
He added that each offered “thoughtful inquiries on subjects that their respective audiences care about” but “Spicer did not offer straight answers to any of the questions” with no chance for a follow-up.
“There is potential for remote questioners to make meaningful contributions to White House press briefings — the first four certainly tried — but, so far, that does not appear to be what the White House really wants,” Borchers concluded.
Again, this act of acting holier than thou is a huge reason why the patience and respect for the media by the American people has worn thin.
While some in the media lobbed profanity-filled insults at Skype questioners from California, Kentucky, Ohio, and Rhode Island, their industry didn’t bat an eye and even offered praise for Obama when he conducted an interview with a YouTube personality GloZell who splashed around in a bathtub filled with milk and Fruit Loops.