Who gets a pass?

I want to take a closer look at Scott McClellan's extensively reported comments. His question is a good one: what is a journalist?

In this day and age, when you have a changing media, it's not an easy issue to decide, to try to pick and choose who is a journalist. It gets into the issue of advocacy journalism. Where do you draw the line? There are a number of people who cross that line in the briefing room.
If the president signs a bill related to labor, doubtless representatives of union and trade journals biased on the side of labor will be given White House passes. There are innumerable special-interest journals and publications, relating to countless political, academic, scientific, industrial, military, and other fields of interest, and I'm sure that whenever one of their favorite topics is on the White House agenda, they're appropriately "credentialed." Bloggers were credentialed at both the Republican and Democratic conventions.

Journalists, it seems to me, are people who write journals. The First Amendment does not require them to be certified, licensed or tested, and I could imagine that even a child writing essays for "My Weekly Reader" might properly be issued a White House pass under the right circumstances.

What I'd like to know is which of the following better qualifies for a White House pass:

  • a liberal journalist who hurls baseless accusations that U.S. troops targeted journalists in Iraq
  • a conservative journalist who dared to ask the president questions which liberal counterparts deemed excessively "soft," who was discovered to own "suggestively named" web sites
  • Is one more "biased" than the other?

    Which is more professional: asking soft questions or making up stories which slander the military in wartime?

    As to the ownership of suggestively named web sites, unless it relates to bias, why should journalists be disqualified for such a thing?

    Try as I might, I can't think of a reason why. (But I find myself imagining the outcry had conservatives "outed" a liberal journalist for the same thing.)

    UPDATE: If I'm reading him correctly, Atrios is upset because Guckert had not been writing under his real name.

    Not sure why that would matter to Atrios....

    posted by Eric on 02.11.05 at 12:51 PM



    Sorry to troll your blog today. I think that the questions you detail here are legitimate. There is nothing wrong with having ideologically-oriented reporters asking Scottie questions at these briefings. This includes Jeff Gannon.

    The problem for me is an ethnical one when 1) The Bush Administration or friends place a reporter in the briefings for the sole purpose of providing support and lifelines for the administration and 2) When the Bush Administration uses such a reporter to advance their agenda by doing things like ... giving him a confidential CIA memo regarding the wife of ambassador Joe Wilson or a tip that the service memos that they gave to Dan Rather were forgeries.

    This is just bad.

    The thing about this guy having purchasted adult entertainment or prostitution domain names is really just silly fun on the side of the left blogs. No one things that this is relevant -- rather, it's just a very satisfying cheap shot. Everyone loves the drama of a hypocrite exposed, but there are some real, serious issues around this guy.

    bink   ·  February 11, 2005 1:06 PM

    Thanks Bink! (You're not trolling at all, btw, and you're always welcome here.)

    The problem is, the grand jury also subpoenaed Bob Novak and Judith Miller, and as Brainster's Blog notes, a subpoena does not prove guilt:

    The lefty bloggers who have blogged on Gannon's connection with the Plame affair have seized on the fact that Gannon was reportedly subpoenaed by the grand jury, but of course being asked to testify does not mean you're the guilty party.

    Eric Scheie   ·  February 11, 2005 1:54 PM

    There are journalists, and then there are journalists. Dan Rather is said to be a journalist. Edward R. Murrow was a journalist. Any comparison between the two is mostly coincidental.

    If we're talking about which journalists should be invited to White House press briefings, that's a different question.

    Helen Thomas had no business there - at least, not after 1960 or so. Her only intent was to ask questions she thought would embarrass the President.

    (PS: Donald Rumsfeld showed everybody how to deal with a silly question. I don't know if it's made the 'net news yet. The rpeorter asked him that since NATO was involved, if he didn't need to form a coalition of the willing. He replied, "Cute. Next question.")

    I'd say the requirement for getting into a briefing should be a reasonably long history of serious, ethical reporting. There are dues to be paid, and a reputation to be made, before one can expect to move from covering the local volleyball team to covering Washington politics.

    Mike   ·  February 11, 2005 3:05 PM

    Can you clear something up for me? It's not at all clear to me that Gannon is, in fact, Guckert. Has anyone demonstrated this, or is everyone just going off of Atrios/dKos' assertion? Has Gannon commented?


    Fred Schoeneman   ·  February 11, 2005 7:59 PM

    Yes, he is Guckert. He has been doing the interview tour on TV/radio/press for the last few days. The name is pronounced Goookert, with the first syllable sounding like "goo." He says that he works under an assumed name because it was always being mispronounced. And he is from Pennsylvania.

    bink   ·  February 11, 2005 8:02 PM

    Still working on that post on a new, possibly circular, spectrum. I'll be done fairly soon, I believe. The next one, the grand finale in this particular series, detailing a 3-dimensional "Smitty'n'Andy", will be a big one. I don't know how long that will take me.

    It really doesn't sound weird to you that a guy got a White House press pass EVERY DAY under a false name? In addition, your point about labor journals, et al...exactly who does Gannon represent in your analogy? The Bush Administration? Because, if so, why is he concealing that connection? Do you understand what "fraud" means? What are "classical values" to you? Self-imposed ignorance? If the Bush Administration is not investigated for giving daily passes to a guy who couldn't get a normal pass because his publication didn't even BOTHER to supply the proper information, it will be a defeat of ethics as understood by civilized people. Read the Salon article for a factual accounting of what Gannon is alleged to have done, and how dodgy it is. This site is pure garbage.

    Bar Knackle   ·  February 11, 2005 9:14 PM

    As opposed to impure?

    Eric Scheie   ·  February 12, 2005 12:52 AM

    The odd thing is how a man with no journalistic credentials whatsoever except for a 50$ two-day course, operating under a false name and employed by a web-site that was only registred three days before his application, was allowed into the White House.

    Add to this his extremely softball questions, his connections to the Valerie Plame-affair and his shady character and this smells more than just fishy.

    Beatrice Pehrsson   ·  February 12, 2005 5:05 AM

    Scott Rosenberg sums it up it best:

    'Let's remember that, while its press secretary is calling on the Jeff Gannons of the world for cover, the Bush administration is also offering under-the-counter payoffs to columnists and sending out video press releases in which PR people masquerade as reporters. This isn't a simple matter of a gaffe here and there; it's a systematic campaign to discredit the media, launched by an administration that desperately needs to keep propping up its Potemkin Village versions of reality (We'll find weapons of mass destruction! We'll cut the deficit! We'll save Social Security by phasing it out! Really!). When you're pursuing an Orwellian agenda, your first target must be anyone who has the standing to point it out. Messengers are a pain -- but if you shoot enough of them (figuratively speaking!), and send out enough impostors, you can have any message you want.' [Emphasis mine.]

    "Gannon's" presence and purpose in the White House - in direct violation of an otherwise rigorously enforced SECURITY policy - is merely further proof of Bush's cowardice and inability to face serious questions, account for his actions, or hold his own in adult discourse.

    Furthermore, the harping on "Gannon's" gay-porn past is indeed relevant, as it proves (again) the hypocricy and senselessness of the Repoublicans' gay-bashing - which, IIRC, this blog rightly condemns. It would not be an issue with a liberal poseur, because liberals do not pretend to frown on gays or porn.

    Your linking the "Gannon" issue to the completely unrelated CNN issue, is nothing more than a transparent and dishonest attempt to change the subject and ignore the issues.

    And why are you so eager to defend Bush Jr. anyway? What "Classical Values" has he ever served in his actions? He is neither brave, honest, rational, educated, nor articulate. Would you want your son (if you have one) looking to him as a role model?

    Raging Bee   ·  February 16, 2005 11:07 AM

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