Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: Blacklist in the White House

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Blacklist in the White House


The duty of a journalist is to receive and report facts in a un-bias, objective manner in order to inform the public on the events in the world. Though the job may be difficult at times for most reporters, its extremely arduous for White House journalists. In White House journalism you must find the balance of reporting hard facts without being too harsh on the president and his cabinet in fear of being blacklisted and debarred from information and privileges.


Though there may not be a physical list of names, White House officials are known for showing favoritism to correspondents who release favorable articles about the president. An example of this is the differences in treatment between the two Washington Post correspondents Bob Woodward and Dana Milbank during the Bush administration.


Woodward is know for his pieces, such as “10 Days in September”, that portray President Bush in a positive light and because of his record he was given special privileges over his fellow reporter at the Post which included exclusive interviews, chronology and anecdotes. Milbank on the other hand has written a number of stories that have made it difficult for the president and embarrassed his aids, such as his Salvation Army account and the secret energy-task-force meetings feature, to the point where they registered complaints to his editors, regularly criticized his stories, and were uncooperative with ordinary requests.


One White House correspondent states, “Basically, if you write something [negative]... the message goes out that so-and-so's on the blacklist -- in some cases for that day, in some cases for that week.” Journalist do expect some flak from the White House as a result of an unflattering stories but some believe that officials are oversensitive to minute-details. "Everyone expects them to be vigilant, to protect their boss -- that goes with the territory,” one correspondent states. "But there's an over-the-top quality here." Even a minor tint issue in the president picture can have a White House staff photographer calling to complain. And ever since 9-11, the staff has become even more defensive.


Since the tragedy and the war, White House officials view difficult questions as being un-American and negative stories as subversive, no matter how accurate the account. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has gone through astounding measures to restrain media coverage of the war. The Washington Post’s ten-year pentagon circuit veteran Thomas Ricks stated, "This is by far the worst the situation's ever been. Rumsfeld has explicitly said to me he would like to send some of the people who leak to me to jail." As a result of Ricks unfavorable stories he had been prohibited from attending a trip to cover a special-force operation, which U.S. reporters were allowed to attend. When he ask why he was denied access, a press affairs officer explained “We don't like your stories, and we don't like the questions you've been asking."


Due to this outward blacklisting of journalist, reporters are placed in an uncompromising position where they can either produce fluff stories about how great the government is or report the facts. Fortunately most writers prefer to keep their integrity and perform the uneasy task of journalism honorably and provide the people of our egalitarian society with real news.


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