Saturday, July 4, 2009

Brian Williams and the White House Pajama Party

Dan Froomkin weighs in on NBC News at Watchdog Blog:


"What would you do if you — and your 32 camera crews — were granted unparalleled access to the White House for a day? And then you had two full hours of prime-time TV to fill?

There are many mysteries you might try to explore. How does President Obama actually make decisions? What if anything changes his mind? What blows his cool? How does he settle disputes among his advisers? Who is the last one to whisper in his ear? How does he treat his staff? How furious is the competition for his attention? Who wins? Why is he so sure, so confident, that thinking big is the solution to every problem? How do he and his staff really feel about the mess Bush left them? How does the former constitutional law professor reconcile his devotion to civil liberties with a handful of recent decisions that have horrified civil libertarians? Does he have second thoughts?

But sadly those were not the sorts of things that seemed to interest anchor Brian Williams and the more than two dozen NBC News producers responsible for the “Inside the Obama White House” special showing last night and tonight, a show that treats Obama like a celebrity rather than a president.

Part of the problem, most assuredly, was that the White House had the ultimate say in what the cameras were allowed to record, and what they weren’t. As Williams says at the show’s outset: “Our job is to show as much as we can of the inner workings, especially of the West Wing. The job of the White House is to show us what they want us to see.”


My response to Williams' idea of what his job entails is: No, no, and no! That is not your job! Your job is absolutely NOT to simply waste your time being spoon-fed tripe by the White House. You are supposed to be in an adversarial role as a high-ranking member of the press. Why are you wasting your time filming the president eating M&M's and ordering burgers? Is this really the best way that you could spend your time day?

Furthermore, your job is to find out the things that the White House DOES NOT want to show us. The White House does not need help with publicity, and if they did, then they should hire a PR firm.

Nor do I buy the argument that this is all that they would show him. This was a plum tossed Williams' way. This was the White House saying, "Let's be friends." And the problem with journalists today is that they all want to be friends with the people in power. And who wouldn't want to go to the White House for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? But if you have chosen a profession where you are supposed to be in an adversarial relationship with government, then you simply cannot do this.

If the White House wants to put together a video montage, showing how they would prefer to be perceived by the public, then let them do so. Let them post it on YouTube. Let them show you how much they all like candy and cuddly dogs. But do not put your seal of journalistic approval on it by producing it and slapping an NBC News logo on it.

If this was designed as test of Brian Williams' journalistic integrity, then his grade is no less than EPIC FAIL. And "journalists" wonder why the mainstream media is held in such low esteem.

Incidentally, Dan Froomkin is one of the few reporters who still takes his job seriously. He truly does consider himself as part of the adversarial press. Of course, although being one of the most popular of all the Washington Post writers, he was just fired by them for not toeing the company line, which, at the Post, means repeating whatever the current administration says without question.

Maybe Brian Williams can take Froomkin's job. He seems to be quite good at that.

No comments:

Post a Comment