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President Obama’s Former Assistant Press Secretary, Reid Cherlin, Says End the White House Press Briefing

Sun July 28 2013 9:53 pm
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CNN’s Frank Sesno talks to Reid Cherlin about the pros & cons of the Washington ritual known as the White House press briefing.

Reid Cherlin thinks the press briefing is a useless ritual that has outlived its utility. He couldn’t be more wrong. He points out that reporters ask Press Secretary Jay Carney questions and get replies, but not answers.

Cherlin quotes Peter Baker of The New York Times: “The White House decided a long time ago that it’s not about candor; it’s about deflection and survival. The press decided it’s about preening.”

Cherlin says Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and current Press Secretary Jay Carney differ in style — Gibbs often made him cringe by ignoring the talking points; Carney makes me cringe by using them — but the effect is the same, which is to say, ridiculous.

“The daily briefing has become a worthless chore for reporters, an embarrassing nuisance to administration staff, and a source of added friction between the two camps. It’s time to do the humane, obvious thing and get rid of it altogether.”

Reid Cherlin (New Republic)

Cherlin says he has first-hand experience. He was in charge of marshaling one-pagers of talking points for the binder that then – Press Secretary Robert Gibbs would carry to the podium. Cherlin says most mornings, he would sit in his office as other aides paraded through to offer their “guidance” on whatever was in the news, which usually meant how to skate away without giving up much information.

You see that is good to know. Sometimes, as reporters, we ask questions when we already know what the answers are. It is a tedious process, especially when the goal of the press agent is to get away without giving away any information. It doesn’t matter if it is the Press Secretary at the White House or the police officer assigned with talking to the press. The truth eventually comes out. Somebody leaks, or something doesn’t add up.

When answers are not given as they should be given, that is still very revealing. When the government is revealed to be acting deceptively, that is just one piece of the puzzle, and one more step to learning the truth by the process of elimination.

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