Michael Calderone at Politico reports that the White House press corps is evolving to the left in the Obama era. Even as Team Obama denigrates Fox News as not a "legitimate news organization," even demeans it as a mere receptacle for GOP "talking points," the White House Correspondents Association is broadening its reporter pool to partisan, anti-Bush, left-wing opinion websites like Salon and Talking Points Memo, and also to the Obama-favoring black magazine Ebony. The Huffington Post is also planning to apply.
The WHCA’s most high-profile decision this year was selecting comedian Wanda Sykes to suggest Rush Limbaugh was comparable to al-Qaeda and wished to have his kidneys fail. Widening the press pool – a group which circulates one or a few reporters to cover the president everywhere he goes for the group – offers a higher profile of professionalism to whoever joins it.
Calderone contacted MRC for our reaction, and I gave it:
"If liberals are upset that Fox News is being treated as a legitimate news organization instead of a GOP talking-points channel, then it's mystifying that the [White House Correspondents' Association] is broadening ‘news’ media to encompass blogs and websites that raged against the Bush White House," said Tim Graham, director of media analysis for the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group.
"Would anyone seriously suggest that TPM, the Huffington Post and Salon are more objective than Fox News?"
Laughably, David Corn of Mother Jones seemed to reply in the story that these sites don’t put out commentary. What?
"If you look at Huffington Post, Mother Jones and TPM, you see three institutions with serious Washington reporting," Corn said. "Our website doesn’t put out commentary. We report on things."
Pool reports usually aren't forwarded directly to readers, but the small details they register -- about what the president said in small talk, and what he was wearing, and so on -- are used by reporters to add color to their reports. Reporters sometimes write them with an attitude. Dana Milbank was criticized by conservatives (including me) for this jokey paragraph in 2001:
"Our protagonist departed the White House near unto 9:20 this morning, bound for the Capitol in a determined effort to find Gary Condit," Mr. Milbank wrote. "The big news of the day was made when our protagonist spoke about education. He declared that education is 'a passion for me.' In addition to this startling revelation, he made a case for free trade and his faith-based initiative."
That may happen more frequently once the Salon-niks and Huffington Posters are given the chance to report to the larger media. But they won't be snide about Obama -- unless he's disappointing the left.