As of now, I am in control here, in the White House

The White House Press Corps Falls Down

I was once crestfallen when I read a piece by someone – I forget who – expressing a basic truth about journalism, one that I felt I had no choice but to accept.

This person wrote that journalism, unlike many other pursuits by college educated individuals, is a trade, not a profession. Like being a plumber, a carpenter, or an electrician. Nothing wrong with those trades, it’s just after four years of college, a tradesman is not what most of our parents imagined they’d paid for.

Obama press conference 8-9-13 Obama takes a question at Friday’s press conference.
Photo by Keith Koffler

You see, a profession, like doctor, lawyer or engineer, generally requires years of training and knowledge of a very specific body of information. You need to know the law, you need to know the human body, and so forth. You can’t practice your profession unless you possess this knowledge.

Let’s face it, anybody can become a journalist, and these days anybody does. Even by traditional standards, the practice requires a limited amount of training, as well as an ability to write that can be managed by the tenth grade. Most journalists can’t even practice a basic skill, shorthand, that would seem to me imperative for fast and accurate quoting.

Journalists don’t need or get much relevant training, and yet they whine when their college buddies who have been rigorously schooled make so much more money than them.

Actually, when I think about it, being a good plumber, carpenter or electrician probably takes more training that it does to be a journalist. It’s really innate talent and hard work that separates the good journalists from the bad ones, not some kind of special knowledge.

I remember years ago I brought my sister, who is an attorney, into the White House to witness the briefing. And that was when the questions were tougher than today. Her judgement? It was nothing you wouldn’t see during an average cross examination by a regular, trained attorney.

Which brings me to Friday’s White House press conference, featuring the elite White House press corps.

I counted only one really good question. It was, not surprisingly, from Ed Henry of Fox News:

I want to ask you about two important dates that are coming up. October 1st you’ve got to implement your signature health care law. You recently decided on your own to delay a key part of that. And I wonder, if you pick and choose what parts of the law to implement, couldn’t your successor down the road pick and choose whether they’ll implement your law and keep it in place?

And on September 11th we’ll have the first anniversary of Benghazi. And you said on September 12th, “Make no mistake, we’ll bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.” Eleven months later, where are they, sir?

This was the only really strong attempt at accountability. Other questions seemed almost designed to help Obama out.

For example this one by CBS’s Major Garrett – who is capable of far tougher inquiry – on debate over the upcoming Federal Reserve Chairman appointment:

Are you annoyed by this sort of roiling debate? Do you find it any way unseemly? And do you believe this will be one of the most important — if not the most important — economic decisions you’ll make in the remainder of your presidency?

Or this one by Scott Horsley of NPR:

Part of the political logic behind immigration reform was the strong showing by Latino voters last November. That doesn’t seem to resonate with a lot of House Republicans who represent overwhelmingly white districts. What other political leverage can you bring to bear to help move a bill in the House?

Seriously. Maybe we might as well leave this stuff to Leno.

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47 Responses to The White House Press Corps Falls Down

  1. My idea of a “journalist” is one who looks beyond the press release or statement, finds the reason for it’s publication, what it really means, and is it truthful, then presents his/her findings without fear and in a straightforward manner without bias.

    Those who just print or repeat what was given them can’t call themselves journalists, but they can say they are reporters. Those who sit in the chairs in the WhiteHouse briefing room are mostly reporters, or worse; they are promoters of a certain agenda that may or may not hide the real story or the truth.
    It’s one thing to respect the Presidency, it’s quite another to allow the man holding that office to skate on lies, misleading facts, and a general attitude that dismisses the concerns of the people he’s supposed to lead.

    Don’t sell yourself, and others like you, short; it’s not easy treading that fine line between personal opinions and the truth. When you tell us what see, or hear, or reason without bias, you’re a journalist.

  2. In his brief response to Ed Henry, Obama referred to himself in the first person a total of 15 times.

    I prefer to have a captain who will explain what the ship is going to do. Instead, we get a captain who talks constantly about himself even after the ship has run aground. It’s never about what America is going to do. It’s always about what Obama happened to be doing at the time, which usually consists of Obama issuing declarations, with the failure coming from others not putting forth the effort to make those declarations come true.

    This country is desperately in need of leadership. Instead, we get someone who couldn’t lead ants to a picnic.

  3. Keith:

    What I noted in the two examples: In the first example, an emotion…” aren’t you annoyed…” and in the second the interjection of race “white districts”. In both instances – leading questions. An ethical journalist will avoid using leading questions to mislead.

    We have unethical journalists and an unethical president – any questions?

  4. Do Obama’s policies not affect left leaning journalists too ? Too much going on in the world to be lobbing softballs just to stay on the Obamas’ party list. That’s the definition of lapdog and water carrier, not journalist.

    I wish I could remember who wrote it, but “no one should go into journalism to change the world but to save it from the rulers trying to destroy it”. U.S. media is no better than the state run media in dictator countries and why print media is failing. I don’t care how corporate media covers news, I care about what news they cover.

    • I am just as concerned about what they “don’t” cover.
      Not a single question was raised about the IRS. Lois, the Fifth, Lerner is still on the payroll and no one had a question, not even a tiny-eenie one?

    • “If you’re going into journalism if you care, then you’re going into the wrong profession … I usually ask (journalists) if they want to change the world in the way it wants to be changed.”
      — Roger Ailes

      (Could this be the quote?)

      • I’ve been looking too, that’s close, but the one I paraphrased pretty much nailed what the media’s purpose is in that “hold politicians feet to the fire” sort of way. And not just about the scandalous sexcapades ;) Thanks for Ailes quote!

  5. There’s a reason Henry works for Fox — the organization the White House has long insisted doesn’t report THEIR version of “news”.

    As to Keith’s sister’s dated opinion of a WH Presser — and I base this on current exchanges — I don’t see much relation to a cross-examination. A mediocre attorney knows to keep drilling deeper for cause and effect. The current WH Press Corps mostly (Keith is an obvious exception) looks to set Obama up for some nice sound bites that he can then send out to his mailing list and post on WhiteHouse.gov. If they really treated this as a cross-examination, we would have gotten to the bottom of Benghazi nearly a year ago.

  6. Sometimes the reporters seem to want to be noticed by him or get a personal comment–so icky. I get particularly annoyed by non-reporters like Stephanopoulos and Todd trying to act like they are. When the Jayson Blair thing hit the Times, I had sources actually say to me…”You call people? You talk to them? I thought quotes were made up.” That hurt!

    • star : CORRECT on trying to RUN OUT the CLOCK very sad .
      You could just tell after he went to the LIST to ask the so CALLED Journalist that NOT ONE question would be asked nor Answered about WHAT 90% of us would like to have answered .

      Being a dairy farmer my MANURE PILE SMELLS better that the QUESTIONS asked and SWEETER than OBOZO’s trite ANSWERS . GET RID OF THE POS NOW !!!

  7. To be honest, as someone who watches the President when he has a press conference, I prefer the softball questions from the lapdogs. When he gets an actual real serious deep question, he goes into a sissy pants hissy fit – his tone changes, his body language changes, you can see the steam coming out of his nose. It’s such an unattractive trait of the president – he doesn’t even bother to hide his hatred – hatred of the opposition, hatred of anyone who questions his authority, hatred of the institution…I repeat, I rather watch his stupid grin when he thinks he’s telling the public the truth.

  8. Propagandist sounds more accurate than tradesman… calling what these people do a trade gives everyone who conducts an honest trade a bad name. They are vile and disgusting people.

  9. Bravo, Keith. It is not easy to take a stand against one of your own, and we owe you many thanks for your honesty and integrity.

    The White House Press Corps, with the exception of a small minority, appear to be more disciples than they are journalists. When AP went out of its way to cover up Preezy’s “Gulf ports” gaffe by inserting words he didn’t say, I knew they had forgiven their messiah for spying on them. This bunch aren’t journalists, they are all true believers who will never second guess their own Jim Jones.

    By the way, somebody should tell Scott Horsley of NPR that Hispanics made up less than 10% of the vote in 2012. And of that 10% more than 70% of them voted for Preezy Revenge. Just how are those statistics supposed to resonate with Republicans? We already know if he doesn’t get what he wants legislatively, he’ll just issue another edict, and that seems to be exactly what Scott Horsley of NPR was encouraging him to do.

  10. Journalism is a truly honorable profession and doesn’t really require a college degree in order to see the facts and report them accurately. Moreover, the tools are unimportant as well. It is the heart and soul of the journalist that matters most and the passion to observe and frame the observation in a manner that is consistent with truth. Just give the people the facts and let them be free to draw their own conclusions. Too bad we don’t have a blood or DNA test to identify a predisposition for the profession. Something tells me the unemployment line would suddenly get longer if there were such identifiers available.

  11. before I saw the receipt four ?9546, I be certain that…my… mom in-law was actually earning money part-time at their laptop.. there mums best friend had bean doing this for only thirteen months and as of now took care of the loans on there condo and got a great new Nissan GT-R:. I went here, …. http://www.BBC13.com

  12. Dear Keith, Let me assure you that I,for one, regard you as a very competent and professional journalist. I am more apt to call the White Houuse crew amateur reporters. And what in the world has happened to Major Garrett? I trust and depend on your daily e-mails for the true story for what is happining in the Blanco Cuckoo Nest along with your wonderful humor.. And I thank you for this oasis in the muck and mire.

    • Frankly, I wonder what has happpened to the Major Garrett
      of old. He use to ask excellent questions when he was with
      Fox. It beats me. I forget who he represents now, but I am not impressed.