The report by the Committee to Protect Journalists on The Obama Administration and the Press has received a lot of attention because of the details about Obama’ extensive use of the Espionage Act of 1917 and relentless pursuit of leakers, drying up confidential sources:

“I think we have a real problem,” said New York Times national security reporter Scott Shane. “Most people are deterred by those leaks prosecutions. They’re scared to death. There’s a gray zone between classified and unclassified information, and most sources were in that gray zone. Sources are now afraid to enter that gray zone. It’s having a deterrent effect….”

“This is the most closed, control freak administration I’ve ever covered,” said David E. Sanger, veteran chief Washington correspondent of The New York Times.

But there is an equally important aspect of the CPJ Report that has not received press attention — the extent to which Obama has managed to create his own social media news operation that complete evades the traditional press:

The Obama administration has notably used social media, videos, and its own sophisticated websites to provide the public with administration-generated information about its activities, along with considerable government data useful for consumers and businesses….

Instead of providing greater access for reporting by knowledgeable members of the press, Compton noted, the Obama White House produces its own short newscast, “West Wing Week,” which it posts on the White House website. “It’s five minutes of their own video and sound from events the press didn’t even know about,” she said.

“When you call the White House press office to ask a question or seek information, they refer us to White House websites,” said Chris Schlemon, Washington producer for Britain’s Channel 4 television news network. “We have to use White House website content, White House videos of the president’s interviews with local television stations and White House photographs of the president.”

The Obama administration is using social media “to end run the news media completely,” Sesno at George Washington University told me. “Open dialogue with the public without filters is good, but if used for propaganda and to avoid contact with journalists, it’s a slippery slope.”

The press has been marginalized as a source of hard news not just by the aggressive leaks, but by Obama’s alternative, completely controlled news operation.  The press needs the bones of information thrown them by Obama, much more than Obama needs the press.


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