Friday, November 21, 2008

Musical Chair Derby to Audition for Transition

The White House is the scene of the best braggarts and brightest burblers competing to get one of the last seats before the dramatic Gothic music stops. The scramble is fierce. The players have the arrogance of elitists, use dumb seeking minions to sharpen their wits upon and find any means necessary to wipe out, trip or just outright legally slit the throats of their fellow professionals. Out of the mêlée comes sanguine victors who join the legions of cube rates across corporate America for a chance to sit and work in the Brady Briefing Room located in the West Wing. The latest journalistic perk is getting senior in front of the words White House reporter.

Confinement to little sections of the White House with special security passes and an itsy bitsy workspace with wifi was worth all of the professional rivalry, hidden hand backstabbing of a new administration and pontificating that goes on in millions of workplaces around the globe. But this is the White House. Barack Obama will be running the historic show. Hidden from public view is the transition to see which millionaire TV journalists and their less well paid print counterparts get to be assigned to stand outside the White House when the mosquitoes bite or the snow piles up around their ears to cover the most closely watched presidential transition in world history. Yet, because the White House during the Bush locusts and famine years was pretty much like a GOP convention - a surfeit of non-French vanilla with an arresting rare chocolate or butterscotch sprinkle for spice, more media enterprises feel a sudden need to diversify their reporting pool. Will the miracles that just the advent of a President-Elect Barack Obama can do never cease...

While The New York Times has yet to announce its White House team, sources tell Politico that it will include Liberian-born journalist Helene Cooper, previously a diplomatic correspondent. Cooper has something in common with the president-elect — her own highly acclaimed memoir delving into her familial ties in Africa, published earlier this

But simply wanting to cover the White House isn't as easy as just showing up. Longtime correspondents tightly hold onto the best seats in the small work space in the basement. Coveted hard passes can take months to obtain through the Secret Service.

"I think people who haven't covered the White House will be surprised how rigid they are about rules," said Julie Mason, White House correspondent for the Washington Examiner, mentioning the assigned seating as a particular sticking point among veterans.

DC journalists notoriously protected privilege and access to their bottom line detriment. Many political bloggers, especially on the left, just moved into the wide open space left by many journalists. Scooter Libby's trial transcripts put the punctuation marks ^%#$(^ of how in the tank many top journalists were for republican agendas after their almost total meek acceptance of all things Bush led to the travesty, the Iraq War. So now people see an opening and the editors and producers have to decide who is going to get the crown jewel of a WH spot to cover this presidency. Do they keep the same people in place or shake things up? Obama decided in-house bloggers were going to get an official White House stamp of approval.

Also getting under way is a new team of official White House bloggers. One, prominent liberal blogger Michael Lux, joined the transition team this week.

He's expected to be joined by bloggers assigned to specific Obama initiatives, such as overhauling health care and conserving energy.

At the same time, McClatchy Newspapers has learned that Obama's Internet army, which is in the course of moving from his campaign communications Web site to his transition site,, may be asked to move again in January. (AFP)

Some media conglomerates are seeking to add more reporters to cover this White House. Just a whiff of drama is catnip to the reporters who strangely enough tell the news on Tv in virtually the same order night after night. Newspapers are hiring their own bloggers while former print magazines are folding shop and becoming web only operations. Newsrooms have a high degree of anxiety over what January 20, 2009 will bring. Media staffing decisions are fraught with peril because they have no control over how an Obama Administration plans to set up or upset current traditions the press deems dear.

Dishing the dirt and taking no guff from press or presidents is the Iron Lady of the Beltway. An eighty year plus feisty woman who famously gave JFK tough questions and every president since. Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Failed the Public, is her book outlining the press and its epic failures to fulfill their purpose of being the People's representative, not their corporations. Waves hi to the Mouse, a Lightbulb and assorted other corporate brands bringing the tarted up "news".

Part of the Transition Series.

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