Led by the Society of Professional Journalists, 38 of the most prominent journalism groups in the country made a legitimate and official gripe about the Obama Administration. Ironically, the gripe was about news–or the lack thereof.
They called it “politically driven suppression of the news.”
The report was authored by Leonard Downie, Jr., formerly the executive editor of the Washington Post, and titled “The Obama Administration and the Press.” It accuses the president of coming into office with the promise of transparency but asserts that he has “fallen short of his promise.”
The report also compares Obama to Nixon and the Watergate scandal. Yes, that really happened.
Downie wrote the following about the Obama Administration:
“In the Obama administration’s Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press. The administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration, when I was one of the editors involved in The Washington Post’s investigation of Watergate.”
Much like the recipient of a subpoena, the president has just been served. The letter in its full entirety discusses how he has allegedly not delivered the unfettered information he promised.
The press has a job to do, which is why there is a White House Press Corps in the first place. This is where “the public does have a right to know.” America, despite our best efforts to not give a damn, really does need to know what is happening at 1600 Pennsylvania. And that is why these groups are complaining:
The stifling of free expression is happening despite your pledge on your first day in office to bring “a new era of openness” to federal government – and the subsequent executive orders and directives which were supposed to bring such openness about.
This news reveals one of two things: 1.) the media’s extreme frustration with the president’s PR team, or 2.) the enormous lack of respect the media has for the president’s PR team.
Some argue that controlling media access is needed to ensure information going out is correct. But when journalists cannot interview agency staff, or can only do so under surveillance, it undermines public understanding of, and trust in, government. This is not a “press vs. government” issue. This is about fostering a strong democracy where people have the information they need to self-govern and trust in its governmental institutions.
So maybe it is a healthy dose of both.