Gibbs carved out too big a role for himself, and many reporters found him inadequately responsive. He tried to be a senior adviser as well as the daily point person for the voracious press corps, and it’s just too much. But I found that as long as I didn’t approach him with every little thing, and made good use of his deputies, he was responsive.
I think reporters complain too much about Gibbs. So often what they get from him is what they could get from those below him who are more reachable – predictable spin that the reporters could have written themselves.
Many reporters just need a “quote,” but want to have the name of someone senior on it. So they bother Gibbs for the same things they could get from the receptionist.
For the smaller number of reporters actively looking to break stories and get interesting background information, there’s sometimes an inverse relationship between the quality of what you get and the distance from the throne. Those who aren’t talking to the president every day can sometimes be persuaded to give a little more, both because they have time to talk to you and because they don’t have to face the boss.
The tradeoff is that when Gibbs does give a real gem, which is exceedingly rare, you know he was “in the room” getting it. But he’s mostly going to give you sanitized stuff he thinks will look good in print.
Reporters who complain a lot about the press secretary need to spend more time developing other sources, both within the White House and among those who talk to the White House and know what’s going on.
They give better information than the man whose job is to tailor information so it looks great in your publication – for the president.