The Blog

Fun With the Self-Referential Press Corps

5:20 PM, Mar 25, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Ed Henry's question for the President last night, and the subsequent snippiness it inspired in President Obama, but I think the column-length play-by-play on "the exchange," as CNN is calling it, is a bit much:

The pressure was on now because the president had called on me. Someone handed me a microphone, millions were watching, and it's scary to think about changing topic in a split second because you might get flustered and screw up.

But it's fun to gamble and like any good quarterback (though I was never athletic enough to actually play the position), I decided to call an audible.

Ed Henry, the Peyton Manning of the East Room. Or, is he more of a Randall Cunningham, 'cause this guy can move:

The president, like any good politician, decided to pick and choose what to answer. So he swatted away the budget question and ignored the AIG stuff.

So I waited patiently and then decided to pounce with a sharp follow-up. From just a few feet away, I could see in his body language that the normally calm and cool president was perturbed.

There are parts of the story that are interesting, as a process story, but it also crystallizes the limitless capacity of the web and the 24-hour news cycle to encourage self-absorption. (This, from a girl who competes in Twitter tourneys, so I know of what I speak.)

Elsewhere, the major news dailies are navel-gazing over the fact that they were passed over last night. Only time will tell if Obama's presser picks are a calculated nod to the emergence of New Media that will continue to diminish the power of the flailing newspaper industry. Or, will the Messiah inscribe their names in the Book of Life once again in front of the American people:

Added Washington Post Political Editor Tim Curran: "The president is certainly entitled to call on whomever he chooses, and we take no offense if he does not call on us on any given day."

But at a time of economic calamity for the newspaper business, not everyone is so blasé.

Haynes Johnson - the Pulitzer Prize-winning former Washington Post reporter who's now a professor at the University of Maryland - said it was "extraordinary and telling" that "for the first time in the history of the presidential press conference, an American president declined to call on any representatives of the major U.S. newspapers."

Well, after "the exchange," as it will ever be known, things may never be the same between Obama and TV reporters, thereby forcing him to revert to the traditional major dailies for questions that don't include follow-ups.