In a press roundtable at the National Press Club tonight, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow led a discussion with White House correspondents about the impact of the internet on their respective jobs. Their conclusion? They don't like being challenged by blogs.There's video at the link.
NBC News' David Gregory bemoaned how political coverage has "become so polarized in this country…because it's the internet and the blogs that have really used this White House press conferences to somehow support positions out in America, political views." Tony Snow admitted he sometimes reads blogs ("I'll occasionally punch it up") only to find "wonderful, imaginative hateful stuff that comes flying out."
Newsweek's White House correspondent Richard Wolffe added, "[Bloggers] want us to play a role that isn't really our role. Our role is to ask questions and get information. … It's not a chance for the opposition to take on the government and grill them to a point where they throw their hands up and surrender."
I honestly can't believe how pathetic this whole display was. (Aside from one woman, who wasn't identified in the clip and says off-camera that she's all for blogs because she's all for the First Amendment—a comment Tony Snow quickly interrupts and stampedes past.) If journalists honestly believe that their singular role is to "ask questions and get information," without pushing for the truth, then why do we even need journalists at the White House press conferences? Why can't Tony Snow just say whatever he wants to say into the camera and deliver White House spin directly to the American people with no middleman? Obviously journalists know they have a bigger role to fill than collectors of information, and surely they're vaguely aware that their reticence in actually filling that role lo these past six years is the main reason they've been so roundly criticized by bloggers.
The thing that just kills me is the way Snow and friends here discuss bloggers as if they're somehow separate from being American citizens. It's "the internet and the blogs that have really used this White House press conferences to somehow support positions out in America, political views" says Gregory, as if the American people had never thought to regard White House press conferences with critical and partisan eyes before the emergence of the blogosphere. Give me a damn break. When will these people realize that "the internet and the blogs" only gave a more public and participatory voice to people who were already politically active? Yes, I'm sure millions of people all just magically become politically active, rather than large numbers of already politically active folks simply having found a new tool to organize. "Get with me," says the program.
Snow shows the depth of his ignorance once again when he references the alleged "generational divide" between, presumably, folks like himself and Gregory and the digital hoi polloi. But David Gregory is 36, placing him firmly in my generation, and Tony Snow is 51, placing him firmly in the generation of the average Shakes reader, based on a survey done last year.
Ultimately, the thing that most deeply disgusts me is that so many members of the media affect the position that there's something so special and elite and important and complicated about being a journalist that the average blogger couldn't possibly do it, couldn't possibly hold a candle to them. (Even though many of us are also journalists.) But then when they're criticized for not doing a better job (which is an understatement, considering the catastrophic due diligence failure that was the media's performance leading up to the war), they hold up their hands and give us the old "Hey, wait a minute; we're just collectors of information, people!" routine. They want respect, but no responsibility—and they cloak this preening, unearned entitlement behind the pretense that this is the way it's always been.
And it's a story that just might fly if there weren't remnants of real journalism still obstinately hanging around.