Obama’s Intractable Media Woes
The President makes an involuntary cameo appearance in this week’s episode of HBO’s “Newsroom,” announcing the death of Osama bin Laden after an hour of journalistic jockeying over the propriety of reporting events before they are officially confirmed.
Press criticism flourishes in the real White House too. After eight years of Bush/Cheney feigned disdain, Barak Obama is openly engaged in debate over how journalists shape or distort reality.
The President, reports the New York Times, is “an avid consumer of political news and commentary. But in his informal role as news media critic in chief, he developed a detailed critique of modern news coverage that he regularly expresses to those around him.”
In doing so, Obama is taking traditional Oval Office grousing to its logical next step in the Internet era by not only complaining about coverage but trying to shape it with Twitter town halls, a Google “hangout” and discussion via LinkedIn as well as the usual sit-down interviews with columnists and electronic pundits.
Yet, despite all this, he has had little success in efforts “to tell a story to the American people.” The answer may lie less in Obama’s narrative skills than the vicissitudes of journalism today.
Half a century ago at the dawn of TV, Presidents were overwhelmed by the reality that they no could longer control the public’s sense of the world through the words that described distant events. War and disorder were now seen nightly in living rooms, tearing down the wall between political and private.