The White House Press Corps Ain’t Impressed

Since the left side of the blogosphere has realized that gay bashing is backfiring, they are now trying to go back to the “Gannon was no journalist” line. Millions of pixels were killed long before this event trying to define what a journalist was. Clearly there is no static definition.

But who is most qualified to answer whether he should have been in the White House briefing room? Anyone rational person would agree the other members of the White House press corps would be the most qualified to make the call.

They’re not impressed by the liberal bloggers outting Gannon.

There’s A Fourth Estate And A Fifth Estate

James Dale Guckert, aka Jeff Gannon, the former White House correspondent for Talon News, set off a firestorm of controversy and introspection last week inside the cramped press work quarters behind the West Wing briefing room.

The unabashedly conservative reporter had already disappeared in a flash of green smoke, drummed out by left-wing bloggers who had set out to expose the personal background of the short, shaved-head man after he asked a particularly right-wing question in a presidential press conference.

Left behind after the smoke cleared were a few fundamental questions: What is a reporter? Does asking biased or loaded questions invalidate a reporter’s credentials? Do columnists count? And above all, who gets to decides?

Members of the White House press corps offered some insight last week after Guckert’s resignation.

“We all ask all kinds of questions; we all come to the briefing room with different points of view; we all serve different corporate masters,” said Terry Moran of ABC News. “I don’t know anything about Gannon’s–or Guckert’s–private life, and frequently he sounded like a shill for the administration. But he also challenged the White House from time to time with pointed questions–from the right. And that always struck me as valuable and necessary.”

Moran’s point is food for thought. Although Guckert’s question to President Bush in the Jan. 26 press conference–about how Bush planned to work with Democrats “who seem to have divorced themselves from reality”–clearly crossed a line, the Talon News reporter occasionally held the president’s feet to the fire. Guckert asked questions about GOP discontent over such issues as immigration, pressed the White House on conservative issues and drew out the administration’s perspective on Democratic initiatives.

While many White House reporters oppose advocacy journalism in the briefing room, Moran vehemently objected to the course of action that led to Guckert’s resignation.

“Whatever the ostensible rationale, it seems clear to me that `Gannon’s’ personal life was investigated and targeted by some bloggers because they did not like the ideas he expressed in his questions. That is chilling to me,” he said.

John Roberts of CBS News agreed that “the liberal blogosphere”–not the White House press corps–drove the onslaught against Gannon. But he also said that Guckert’s “presence at the daily briefing was not an issue with me.”

“There are other people there with a clear agenda as well,” he said.

Judy Keen, the sage White House correspondent for USA Today, closed the loop.

“Gannon–or whatever his name is–certainly isn’t the only reporter whose point of view is reflected in their questions. Anyone who regularly attends the gaggles and briefings knows that there are other reporters there whose questions suggest a certain hostility toward the administration,” she said.

Regular briefing attendees know that only too well. Helen Thomas, a former reporter turned columnist, despises Bush and once called him “the worst president in all of American history.” Her daily rants come from the hard left, including this question during the lead-up to war in Iraq: “The president claims he’s compassionate, but he’s on the warpath against Iraq, Iran, North Korea, the Philippines, and this new report he would use nuclear weapons whenever he gets the urge. Is he trying for dictator?”

How very true. If Gannon is to be attacked for his question, Helen Thomas should be drawn and quartered.

OK so how do we decide in the future then???

The White House certainly doesn’t want the job.

“I don’t think it’s the role of the press secretary to get into picking or choosing who gets press credentials,” Scott McClellan said. “I’ve never inserted myself into the process. [Guckert], like anyone else, showed that he was representing a news organization that published regularly, and so he was cleared two years ago to receive daily passes, just like many others are. The issue comes up — it becomes, in this day and age, when you have a changing media, it’s not an easy issue to decide or try to pick and choose who is a journalist. And there — it gets into the issue of advocacy journalism. Where do you draw the line? There are a number of people who cross that line in the briefing room. … There are a number of people in that room that express their points of view.”

The spokesman said he would welcome any input from the White House Correspondents’ Association, which represents the press corps in its dealings with the administration on coverage-related issues. But the association’s president, Ron Hutcheson, does not want the organization to be the arbiter of White House credentials.

“I want the association to be an advocate for getting people into the White House, not for keeping people out,” he said. While Hutcheson noted that “we don’t want someone hijacking the briefing so they can talk about their agenda, from the left or the right,” it’s not the task of the association to decide who should be allowed to attend daily briefings.

Nobody wants the job. Partisans abound in the briefing room, they always have. Gannon was no less a journalist than Helen Thomas.

I guess they lefty bloggers will have to go back to gay bashing.

Confessions of a bleeding-heart moderate
Weighing evils

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