For instance, the same AP article that so prominently documented the First Ladies’ wardrobe and lunch menu also missed the stagecraft aspect of Obama’s town hall in Strasbourg, merely noting earnestly that “Obama had some nice things to say about the French lifestyle” and that “in Strasbourg’s streets, optimism and good will toward Obama persists.” The LAT article about the same town hall got it, however, tacitly admitting the political usefulness of Obama’s public appearances before enthusiastic crowds (whose leaders he was trying to sell on Afghanistan and the economy) by describing the tightly planned infrastructure of his engagements:
It was the third time in two days that Obama has held a public question-and-answer session, coming less than 24 hours after the president held a lengthy news conference in the wake of the G-20 summit in London.
The crowds, after all, come out when there are events—and to treat an event in isolation is to lose out on the bigger story. It also means that, as a reporter, you run the risk of letting an often self-selective crowd be the litmus test of a country’s mood. Considering events in context diminishes that risk.
Another thing that shrinks perspective: bypassing the content of a speech that supposedly “transfixed” an audience, as a NYT story about Obama’s reception in the Czech Republic does. Laying out a predictable narrative of he came, he conquered, it mentions gleefully that Obama was able to cite the phrase Velvet Revolution in “flawless Czech,” and won his Czech listeners over. That might have been what transfixed the audience, but so too might have been the fact that North Korea had launched a rocket just hours before, and that Obama specifically addressed the incident in his speech. The article doesn’t mention it, or most of the content of Obama’s speech, and in so doing, it impedes its own verdict—that the American president’s visit was a success.