NYT interview with Obama: No surveillance questions?

Jackie Calmes and Michael D. Shear's interview with President Obama packed in enough news to fill three New York Times articles and one media story: "It was the paper's first exclusive chat with the president in nearly three years," The Huffington Post's Jack Mirkinson writes.

In the interview -- full transcript here -- Obama discussed income inequality, said he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline "only if it does not 'significantly exacerbate' the problem of carbon pollution" and vowed to implement Obamacare. All newsworthy, all wrung from a 40-minute interview.

But Calmes and Shear showed what must have been superhuman forbearance by not asking Obama about his administration's pursuit of reporters' phone records, prosecution of leakers, or its insistence that Times reporter James Risen should testify in a leak case.

In a piece published in Sunday's Times, Executive Editor Jill Abramson told Public Editor Margaret Sullivan she was “bitterly disappointed" in a federal appeals court's ruling ordering Risen to testify. She called it "a blow to 'the ongoing important work that journalists do in holding powerful institutions and the government accountable to the people,'” Sullivan wrote.

Reached by email, Shear declined to get into what he called the paper's "sausage-making process" but said the transcript is a complete record of his and Calmes' discussion with the president. In a discussion with The Huffington Post's Michael Calderone, Times Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt the paper had "no restrictions" vis-a-vis questions in the interview, saying, "the right move for a news organization when doing an interview with the president is to go in and focus on one or two broad areas."

Previously: Is Obama the ‘least newspaper-friendly president in a generation’?

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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