Suck-Ups, Hook-Ups

In a piece titled “How media sucks up to White House,” Politico’s Michael Calderone writes about the recent flurry of “beat sweetners” (profiles of lower-level White House folks written by political reporters hoping to curry favor and woo sources), even catching himself and Politico colleague Jonathan Martin in the act.

Writes Calderone, of a series of recent Robert Gibbs profiles in particular:

But with each passing week — with each passing iteration of the folksy ways, pastel ties, Alabama-roots tale — the red-face test gets a little harder to pass.

When Obama first picked him as his press secretary in November, Gibbs received a lot of immediate attention and profiles, including a Washington Post take that dubbed him the “Barack whisperer.” The New York Times Magazine checked in the following month with a sprawling, 5,300-word study by Mark Leibovich. The Washington Times and New York Post followed suit.

So when Time finally popped its own Gibbs profile in its March 2 issue, it risked coming off as another spoonful of sugar in a pretty sweet cup of tea. White House correspondent Michael Scherer’s piece was executed with all the relevant biographical details. But the piece relied heavily on praise from colleagues such as Valerie Jarrett and Pete Rouse, and it checked off most of the usual boxes again, including the pastel ties and the Alabama roots.

Fox News, without crediting Politico, had its Fox & Friends “Pundits Pit” (The Daily Beast’s Tina Brown, former New York Sun columnist/editor John Avlon, and Washington Times columnist Andrew Breitbart) discuss this morning the phenomenon of the beat sweetner (chyron: “Is The Media Sucking Up?”). Said Brown:

I have to say it’s actually a pretty lame activity when you start writing these feverish pieces about the administration sort of mesengers, really…

More from the Pit:

BREITBART: I think what you are going to find out in the next six months is some of these people are actually going to be marrying each other. This happened in the Clinton administration…

FOX NEWS’S GRETCHEN CARLSON: There were a lot of hook-ups?

BREITBART: …Jamie Rubin married Christiane Amanpour and Dee Dee Myers married Todd Purdham of the New York Times. So when the Democrats get into power with their natural journalistic sources, the least I have to worry about are these puff pieces.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.