Is Obama the 'least newspaper-friendly president in a generation'?

The Washington Post | Politico
President Obama "may be the least newspaper-friendly president in a generation," Paul Farhi writes. Anders Gyllenhaal, McClatchy's vice president for news and Washington editor, tells Farhi that a request this summer to interview the president was "laughed off."

The Washington Post landed its last on-the-record meeting with the president nearly four years ago, as did the Wall Street Journal; the New York Times last got to him in the fall of 2010. The Boston Globe has never had an interview while Obama was in office, nor has the Los Angeles Times, according to the Nexis database and the newspapers. Even Obama’s hometown papers, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, have been stiffed.

Obama's reluctance to engage newspaper reporters is a "smart decision -- the same way avoiding dark alleys in seedy neighborhoods is a smart decision," Dylan Byers writes. " At the end of the day, nobody faults you except the folks waiting in the alley."

But that narrative presumes that newspaper -- or Web-based -- reporters are more likely to shift a president from his talking points than their counterparts in television journalism. In an interview with Washington Post reporter Scott Wilson in December 2009, the president discussed his legislative priorities for the next year. New York Times reporter Peter Baker interviewed Obama for a very good look at his presidency in the middle of his first term, but the best quotes do not come from the president.

In fact, when the president's been knocked off balance by journalists, local TV reporters have usually wielded the poles: Brad Watson at WFAA in Texas famously irked the president by going off script, WXIX reporter Ben Swann pressed him on drone strikes and KUSA's Kyle Clarke asked him about the Benghazi mess last fall.

By way of contrast, Obama's last sit-down interview with print journalists touched off an investigation on whether or not he actually likes to go skeet-shooting.

Previously: President Obama: ‘I read all of the New York Times columnists’ | President Obama, media critic, dislikes ‘false balance’

Correction: This post originally identified Anders Gyllenhaal by an incorrect title.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at 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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