Editor & Publisher printed a story today about White House correspondents going hat in hand to ask presidential press secretary Scott McClellan to cut back on background briefings — you know, those “not for attribution” sessions which leave reporters citing yet one more “anonymous source” which in turn leaves both their editors and their readers gnashing their teeth.
To which press critic Jay Rosen has a pithy response in a letter he fired off to Jim Romenesko’s media news column at Poynter online.
Why ask, Rosen asks. It takes a source and reporters to create a background briefing, whether by phone or face-to-face. If the “anonymous administration official” doesn’t show up, there’s no briefing. More important, if the reporters don’t show up, there’s also no briefing.
For the timid White House press corps to bring the corrupted and degrading process to a halt “is simple,” Rosen notes. It doesn’t require a permission slip from McClellan. All it requires is refusing to take part. Or, as Rosen puts it:
“Hang up the phone. Don’t call in the first place. Do something else with your reporting time.”
We couldn’t have said it better.