Pressing Forward

What type of reception will reporters get covering the Obama White House? In his blog, The New Yorker’s George Packer draws insights from covering the campaign:

…the Obama campaign was not “in the tank” for the press. In my limited experience, and in what I’ve heard from the more extensive experience of other reporters, editors, fact-checkers, etc., the Obama press operation made the current White House look like the early days of the Straight Talk Express. Friendlier than Bush’s, maybe, but tighter—as tight as a poker player who’s just been raised. No fact was too incontrovertible, no judgment too safe, no quotation too anodyne, to be questioned, challenged, changed, taken off the record, manipulated, denied, and finally denounced by the super-disciplined members of the Obama message team on the imperative mission of shaping the campaign narrative in their favor. Working for an Obama-friendly publication like this one didn’t help in the least. If anything, it meant we could be taken for granted, like the other woman who will always be waiting for the phone to ring.

Reflecting on the relationship between the press and the White House during the Bush administration, Packer hopes that President Obama will be more open and available than Candidate Obama.

And how will the press cover Obama, Howard Kurtz asks?

Obama may enjoy a respite after an inauguration that is all but certain to be covered as another watershed moment. Jim Warren, former managing editor of the Chicago Tribune and a Huffington Post columnist, predicts that he will get something of a honeymoon.

“There will be a lot of beat-sweetener pieces to cultivate sources,” he says. “But within the year, normal competitive impulses will take over.”

Perhaps the Obama White House will circumvent the tradition of press conferences, relying instead on technologies enlisted during the Veepstakes: “If you can beam your message to millions of computer and cellphone screens, who needs the filter of skeptical reporters?”

Will Chris Matthews, he of the “helping this new presidency work” press, be let into the loop? Inquiring minds want to know.

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Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.