The White House is usually quite good at keeping a muzzle on the media after one of its off-the-record sessions with President Obama and senior members of his administration.Yeah, having 99% of the media in his back pocket just isn't having the desired effect, especially when you consider the motley groups he's already had in.
But not this week.
A group of black bloggers and journalists from outlets like Essence and BET were invited to the White House on Monday for a half-day of policy briefings by the president’s advisers. The White House provided the journalists with an agenda that spelled out the ground rules: the first half of their briefings was to be on background, meaning they could report any information they learned but not attribute it to any specific official; the second half was off the record entirely.
Still, that did not stop bloggers from writing about the event and, in one case, posting a video of the president’s remarks to the group.
The blog ConcreteLoop.com has posted a clip of Mr. Obama’s meet-and-greet with the journalists in which he stressed the importance of White House outreach to black media, especially blogs with large black followings.
“The media is changing so rapidly,” the president said, acknowledging the role of the Web in allowing his administration to reach out beyond audiences that are mainstream media consumers.
“It allows us to reach audiences that may not be watching ‘Meet the Press’ — not that there’s anything wrong with ‘Meet the Press.’ I’m just saying that, you know, it might be a different demographic,” he added, stirring a few laughs from the group.
The black blogosphere, he added, was a crucial medium through which the White House could covey its message and get feedback from the black community.
The White House periodically reaches out to members of the media through off-the-record sessions with journalists. The president has hosted recent gatherings with prominent liberal commentators like Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post and Gail Collins of The New York Times. And after complaints from the White House Correspondents Association that the president and his staff parcel out access too sparingly, Mr. Obama hosted a group of reporters for lunch in August.
Few details about either of those events — even the complete list of invitees — ever leaked out. But some of the bloggers who visited the White House on Monday apparently felt unbound by the ground rules.