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NEWS BRIEFINGS SHUT DOWN

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 25, 2019

NEWS BRIEFINGS SHUT DOWN
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This will be considered sacrilege by my journalistic colleagues, but I've always considered news conferences largely to be a waste of time. They're better than nothing, as a way to flesh out a story with a quote (or sound bite, in TV parlance), but they certainly are not a great format for reporters to uncover new information by asking skeptical questions about whatever rubbish someone is peddling, particularly if the star of the show is not embarrassed about transparently lying.
Consider the format of a White House briefing, which is really just a news conference. Usually, it will be Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has no shame, deflecting obvious questions about whatever outrage has most recently been foisted on us by her boss, the president. She is fully prepared with strategies to fend off any efforts to shed light on the story du jour. The standard rules are that the inquiring correspondent waits to be called on and then lets fly with the zinger query. Then Sarah, or someone, reacts with either a distortion or a withering personal condemnation of the subhuman who dared to ask anything so impertinent.


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She hasn't even bothered with this charade for over a month. However, the charade also features White House reporters, who either seek information (futile), sound bites and pithy quotes (pointleth) or show off on TV (hot-dogging). They're so bent out of shape that the White House Correspondents' Association -- yes, they have an association, whose main functions are throwing the annual nerd prom and taking umbrage -- offered this bit of whining: "this retreat from transparency and accountability sets a terrible precedent. Being able to question the press secretary or other senior government officials publicly helps the news media tell Americans what their most powerful representatives are doing in their name."
They have a point. The way it's supposed to work is that an independent press cuts through all the crud from self-serving politicians (pardon the redundancy) and challenges whatever snake oil they're peddling that day ... except that the politicians and their spokespeople long ago learned how to either give answers that are distortions at best, or impugns the motives of the scumbag reporter(s). Sarah Huckabee has turned disdain into an art form, appearing to treat any inquiry as if it came from somebody with discernible digestive problems.
She's doing the bidding of her boss, of course. He weighed in with a supportive tweet: "the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately, in particular certain members of the press. I told her not to bother, the word gets out anyway!"
That's true, it "gets out anyway," unmolested by those purveyors of "fake news." However, putting out "the word" via the State of the Union address was postponed. The president finally decided to abandon his separate fight with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after she disinvited him from giving his address until after the government shutdown was over. Pelosi held all the power. The speaker decides when and whether a chief executive comes to the Capitol for the yearly dog and pony show. Besides, it's not necessarily yearly. All the Constitution specifies is that he "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union" (Article 2, Section 3, if you give a hoot). He doesn't even have to give a speech. It can be in writing; in fact, it has often been. So now you have been given more information about the State of the Union address than you ever desired. All you need to know is the fact that it was called off until the hundreds of thousands of government workers were no longer, uh, walled off from their jobs and paychecks.
Actually, the State of the Union can be described in a one-word speech: "disastrous." You don't need a bunch of riffraff reporters asking obnoxious questions to realize that.

(c) 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 26, 2019 7:36 AM.

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