White House beat is ‘only stenography if you choose it to be’

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BuzzFeed’s new White House reporter pumps his colleagues for information on how to run the beat. “It can be frustrating and soul-killing to listen to the same talking points and spin sessions day after day,” New York Times reporter Peter Baker tells Evan McMorris-Santoro. (Is there a “House of Cards” paragraph? Try to write this piece without one!)

Baker says the job is “only stenography if you choose it to be,” and that “the challenge is to be creative not just in uncovering information the press office doesn’t want to give out, but also in taking the information that is available and writing about it in a way that goes deeper below the surface and gives readers a better, sharper analysis of what’s really going on.”

“The best way to cover the White House is not to cover the White House,” Yahoo’s Olivier Knox tells McMorris-Santoro.

“You have to reach out to Congress, to career staff at government agencies, to foreign diplomats ā€“ you’re looking for overlap in information without an overlap in agenda,” he said.

But sometimes stenography is all a story requires. Like when President Obama tells jokes to a gathering of journalists, for instance: “Some of you have said that Iā€™m ignoring the Washington press corps — that we’re too controlling,” Obama said at the Gridiron Club dinner this weekend, Connor Simpson reports. “You know what, you were right. I was wrong and I want to apologize in a video you can watch exclusively at whitehouse.gov.”

He also made a joke about Nate Silver (“my rock, my foundation”) and one about Bob Woodward (“Who knew anybody named Gene could be this intimidating?ā€).

Previously: White House press complain about access to president | Poynter’s vast Nate Silver archives

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