From a correspondent from a CBS affiliate in Arizona who was among a group of local reporters invited in to the White House Wednesday to interview President Obama
It was a very busy day. We started here shortly after 8 o’clock with a coffee with press secretary Jay Carney inside his office in the West Wing.
And this was the off-the-record so we were able to ask him all about some of the preparation that he does on a regular basis for talking to the press in his daily press briefings. He showed us a very long list of items that he has to be well versed on every single day.
And then he also mentioned that a lot of times, unless it’s something breaking, the questions that the reporters actually ask — the correspondents — they are provided to him in advance. So then he knows what he’s going to be answering and sometimes those correspondents and reporters also have those answers printed in front of them, because of course it helps when they’re producing their reports for later on. So that was very interesting.
First of all, it’s obvious this reporter doesn’t know the meaning of off the record. Clearly, if Carney said this, he didn’t intend for it to be reported. So thank goodness for bad reporters.
Given that she doesn’t understand basic journalism, it’s not clear to me that she got this exactly right. Speaking with the Daily Mail, Carney denied the report.
Nevertheless, if true, it’s shameful. The public is being shown something that is even more of a charade than it appears, and it provides further proof for the validity of people’s suspicions about the coziness of the press and this White House.
It is definitely not true that all or even most of the questions are provided in advance. I can just tell you that I’ve been at the White House a long time and I would know if this was happening on a mass scale. And the notion of reporters being provided answers in advance sounds truly strange, given that there’s little reason for it if Carney gives the answer publicly from the podium.
Perhaps Carney meant that reporters often ask questions privately in their regular conversations with him before the briefing and then the questions come up – either from the same or different reporters – during the briefing.
This could be particularly true for TV and radio reporters who may ask a question again in order to get a sound bite they can put on the air.
But there are other, less innocent possibilities:
First, reporters may want Carney to prepare an answer so that they have a good quote – again, particularly in the case of TV reporters who want an eloquent sound bite.
Second, reporters may be hoping that if they let Carney know what they will ask, and he likes the question, he’ll call on them.
And third, it’s a great way to suck up to him. Simple as that.
If these things are happening, and I assume this correspondent can’t have gotten things completely wrong, it’s a disgrace.