The long-suffering White House press corps is taking steps to thwart the Obama administration’s continued attempts to sanitize news coverage on the government’s executive branch.
Press pool journalists currently must submit their work to the White House press office, from which the reports are distributed via email to news organizations throughout the nation.
Last month, reports surfaced of the White House’s efforts to influence the content of the information press pool reporters pass along to their news industry colleagues on a daily basis by demanding changes or threatening to revoke journalists’ access for unflattering reports.
The Washington Post reported at the time:
When Anita Kumar of the McClatchy newspaper chain covered Obama’s appearance on “The Tonight Show” for the press pool last year, she wrote a detailed account of the taped program. Kumar thought her story would be sent to pool recipients hours before the show aired. Instead, White House press staffers objected to the length of her file, saying it violated an agreement with the program’s producers to limit advance publicity. They told Kumar to pare down her account before they would distribute it.
Kumar reluctantly complied, but the request made her uneasy. “The worry is that when you send in a pool report, the White House is reading it and approving it,” she said.
Other journalists tell similar tales about White House objections.
While the majority of the White House’s press nitpicking involves minor details and trivial issues, press pool journalists have warned that the administration’s involvement in editing the news is a slippery slope.
“The independence of the print pool reports is of utmost importance to us,” said Christi Parsons, a Los Angeles Times reporter and the White House Correspondents Association president, last month. “Our expectation is that the White House puts out the pool report and asks questions later.”
For that reason, The Washington Post reports, press pool reporters have collaborated to set a press report distribution system of their own.
Via The Post Wednesday:
A small group of reporters initiated an online forum this month in which they shared “pool” information among themselves, without White House involvement. The forum was set up by the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), which negotiates with the White House’s press staff over access for journalist.
(…)But now, some journalists are sharing their White House reporting using Google Groups — the digital service that allows registered users to receive and send information within a closed circle. In an early test of the supplemental system, journalists shared pool information about President Obama’s trip to Chicago this month. The system has been used for “advisories,” such as where the pool is assembling, when another pool report will be issued or whether a correction is in the works.
Currently, about 90 print journalists subscribe to the Google Groups list, compared to about 8,000 who are on the official pool list. Parsons has described the list as a sort of backup that could eventually serve as “a supplementary system for the print poolers so they can send out information directly to other reporters whenever they feel they need to, much as the TV and radio poolers do now.”
Unfortunately, there are obstacles to journalists wresting control of the press pool information distribution from the White House.
Again from The Post:
The key obstacles appear to be not technological but administrative and financial. The WHCA is wary of the cost of taking over all the managerial tasks of the pool system from the White House, which does the job with its own staff at taxpayer expense.
In addition to distributing the pool reports and maintaining an ever-changing list of recipients, the White House press office has several staffers who schedule reporters for pool duty, coordinate security clearances so that they can be in proximity to the president and find substitutes when there are no-shows.