Bill Plante: Before politicians went to public, ‘news was what we said it was’

The Chicago Tribune

CBS News correspondent Bill Plante tells Chicago Tribune reporter Steve Johnson he deliberately chose the phrase “state-run media” to complain about the Obama administration’s ability to go around the press (A recent example: the president’s interview with Zach Galifianakis).

“We have an issue, and we had it to a certain extent with the Bush administration,” Plante told Johnson.

The roots of it — let me tell you a story. Mike Deaver, who was Reagan’s image guy, told me at the beginning of the Reagan administration, he said, “You know, we’re gonna go over your heads and speak directly to the public because the president is very good at that.” I said, “O.K., fine. Go ahead.” But in fact we — and the (Associated Press) — still controlled the news flow. The news was what we said it was.

Johnson asked Plante “what’s the challenge” of the White House beat. “Because you’re all getting roughly the same information, you’re all going to roughly the same events,” he says.

“It’s always been regarded as a premiere beat,” Plante replies. “You don’t get as much juice out of it, I suppose, as landing a good investigative piece, which you might do, if you’re lucky, once a year. But it remains a fascination.”

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