Politico media reporters Dylan Byers and Hadas Gold have assembled a list of “2013's biggest media stories.” A few items down the list is the provocatively titled “President Obama loses the media.”
“If 2008 was Barack Obama’s honeymoon period with the press, 2013 was the year of the divorce,” claimed Byers and Gold. Did these pundits miss the Barbara Walters interview? They elaborated:
Five years ago, the media was seen as being so sympathetic to the junior senator from Illinois that it irked his Democratic challengers. But in his second term as president the tone of both the news coverage and the editorial commentary has become far more critical.
Since the second inauguration, Obama has been accused of being arrogant in private, ineffective on domestic policy and just plain confusing on foreign policy. His White House has antagonized the press corps by limiting media access, while the troubled Obamacare rollout has brought on the most sustained media criticism of his five years in office.
Instead of courting the reporting press, Obama has shown a strong preference for private, off-the-record meetings with pundits and columnists. While these sessions are valued by all involved, they also have fed the perception that Obama is most interested in being regarded as smart by the people he regards as smart.
That’s a revealing summary of the press's feelings, if not the press coverage. It doesn’t reflect the pattern for the whole year. Yes, it’s been a rough last quarter of the year with the unmissable fiasco of the Obamacare website. But even there, the “divorcees” of the press have been trying to turn around the bad news and help Obama dig out.
As in the second Clinton term, the big change in media coverage is that the White House beat vanishes a little, gets buried under celebrity fluff and weather and other News Lite topics that goose the ratings. There’s less Obama puffery, but it’s still nothing like the slings and arrows of Bush’s second term, where even the hurricanes were the president’s fault.
It might feel like harsh weather out there in the media, considering Obama's dismal approval numbers, but that's happened despite the media coverage, not because of it. Syrup from Barbara Walters and Steve Harvey can only accomplish so much.