Political Reporters Too Scared of Politics to Cover Politics

The Financial Times‘ Edward Luce (2/3/10) had a report last week that blamed some of the Obama administration’s problems on the president’s overreliance on four top advisers–particularly chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who “in addition to hurling frequent profanities at people within the administration…has alienated many of Mr Obama’s closest outside supporters.”

More illuminating than the article itself may be the Washington press corps’ reaction to it, as described by AlterNet‘s Steve Clemons (2/9/10):

Mark Schmitt, executive editor of the liberal magazine the American Prospect, wrote that “Luce has written what seems to me the best and most succinct rundown of what’s gone wrong in the White House, with particular attention to the role of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.” But some of the big aggregators out there–Mike Allen at Politico and ABC‘s the Note among others–didn’t give Luce’s juicy and lengthy essay any love.

Why not? Allen is a good friend of mine and tries to keep a good balance between tough-hitting political stuff, but also goes out of his way to give strokes to those in the White House he can — particularly “Axe” — who is a regular in Mike’s daily Playbook….

But this Luce piece is unavoidably, accurately hard-hitting, and while many of the nation’s top news anchors and editors are sending emails back and forth (I have been sent three such emails in confidence) on what a spot-on piece Luce wrought on the administration, they fear that the “four horsepersons of the Obama White House” will shut down and cut off access to those who give the essay “legs.”‘

In other words, Washington political journalists can’t tell you what’s going on inside the White House because then they would lose access to what’s going on inside the White House.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.