NPR Hypes 'Cranky News Consumer' Obama's Critique of the Media

NPR's Scott Horsley acted as a stenographer for President Obama on Tuesday's Morning Edition, as he reported on the Democrat's Monday slam of the news media. Horsley played up how the President "spoke as a politician who's been on the receiving end of tough questions; but also as a somewhat cranky news consumer who thinks too many reporters are falling down on the job." The correspondent also turned to a talking head who backed up Obama's criticism of the press.

Host Rachel Martin led into Horsley's report by highlighting the "seriously awkward moments" during the recent press conference President Obama held with Cuban dictator Raul Castro, after the chief executive "pressed the Cuban leader to answer questions from U.S. reporters." Martin continued that "President Obama says tough questions from the media are just as important to democracy here at home; and he says the political press aren't being as tough as they should be in this presidential race."

The segment featured back-to-back clips from the politician's remarks at the dinner for the annual Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting. The NPR journalist first recounted that "President Obama says he's constantly asked by other world leaders, what is happening in America's vulgar and divisive presidential campaign?" The Democrat placed part of the blame on "a press corps more focused on clicks and ratings than the facts."

After giving his "cranky news consumer" label of the President, Horsley spotlighted that the President "did not specifically mention coverage of Donald Trump, but he complained the mere ability to draw attention has overtaken reason and analysis." He then underlined that "Obama's views are echoed by Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute, a non-profit media training center. She says while consumers today have more news outlets to choose from than ever, there's still an unmet need for authoritative information."

Near the end of the report, the correspondent touted how "Obama acknowledged the news industry is in transition — under pressure to cut cost and find new revenues. Good journalism has never been easy, he said, or more essential."

Sam Sanders and Domenico Montanaro also reported on President Obama's remarks in Tuesday article on NPR.org. The two detailed Obama administration has stymied the media since 2009 — something Horsley glossed over during his segment:

Obama's upbraiding of the press, however, comes against the backdrop of a press corps that has feuded at times with his own administration. His Justice Department has cracked down on reporters in an effort to prevent leaks; it also set a new record for withholding access to government files under the Freedom of Information Act (despite calling for a "new era of openness" on his first day in office); and photojournalists in 2013 from several major news organizations chastised the Obama administration for denying their "right to photograph or videotape the President while he is performing his official duties," instead relying on official photos shot by White House photographers.

The full transcript of Scott Horsley's report from the March 29, 2016 edition of NPR's Morning Edition:

RACHEL MARTIN: The press conference last week with President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro produced some seriously awkward moments, as Obama pressed the Cuban leader to answer questions from U.S. reporters. President Obama says tough questions from the media are just as important to democracy here at home; and he says the political press aren't being as tough as they should be in this presidential race.

Here's NPR's Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY: President Obama says he's constantly asked by other world leaders, what is happening in America's vulgar and divisive presidential campaign? He suggests part of the problem is a press corps more focused on clicks and ratings than the facts.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When it doesn't matter what's true and what's not, that makes it all but impossible for us to make good decisions on behalf of future generations.

HORSLEY: At a dinner last night honoring the best in political journalism, Obama spoke as a politician who's been on the receiving end of tough questions; but also as a somewhat cranky news consumer who thinks too many reporters are falling down on the job. He did not specifically mention coverage of Donald Trump, but he complained the mere ability to draw attention has overtaken reason and analysis.

OBAMA: If I say that the world is round and someone else says it's flat, that's worth reporting. But you might also want to report on a bunch of scientific evidence that seems to support the notion that the world is round.

HORSLEY: Obama's views are echoed by Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute, a non-profit media training center. She says while consumers today have more news outlets to choose from than ever, there's still an unmet need for authoritative information.

KELLY MCBRIDE, POYNTER INSTITUTE: Consumers want a source to tell them what the truth is. If we don't do it with good intentions, somebody with bad intentions will tell them what to believe.

HORSLEY: Obama acknowledged the news industry is in transition — under pressure to cut cost and find new revenues. Good journalism has never been easy, he said, or more essential. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.


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