White House uses embargoes as yet another way to drive reporters crazy

The Washington Post


The White House “uses embargoes mainly to try to manage the news,” New York Times reporter Peter Baker tells Paul Farhi.

“It will put out some small scrap of information, usually previewing an event to be held the next day, and embargo it to 6 a.m. That way it can help drive coverage starting at the beginning of the day on the morning shows and Web sites. It’s a way of trying to manipulate the fast currents of the modern news cycle.”

Baker also says the White House never "asks if we agree to an embargo. They’re just sent out to mass e-mail lists with the assumption that if we receive it, we agree to it.”

That's merely the latest successful tactic in what appears to be a permanent White House campaign to drive reporters totally nuts. From White House press secretary Jay Carney's inventive no-comments, to limiting the president's availability, to skipping interviews with big outlets, to excluding them from his golf trips (not to mention the Department of Justice's secret subpoenas of their phone records and off-the-record meetings), the Obama administration has almost made an art out of cheesing off the people who cover it, to hear them tell it.

Or maybe they're just bad at history: As Poynter National Advisory Board member Tom Rosenstiel wrote earlier this year: "[E]very competent president has adopted the newest technology to bypass [reporters], from Roosevelt talking directly to Americans on radio in the 1930s, to Clinton using satellite hookups with local TV reporters."

Related: White House Correspondents Association elects Carol Lee president for 2015-16 (Politico)

Previously: Who cares if journalists break embargoes? | Kafka: Readers don’t care about embargoes

  • 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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