Friday, January 28, 2011

Actual Press Bias

One of these White House positions is not like the others:

Deputy Chief of Staff
Deputy Chief of Staff
Director of Legislative Affairs
Press Secretary

Well, I'll admit that I'm probably pushing it here. I'd like to say that the press secretary is easily the least important of those four positions, but that's probably a judgement call, and it depends on how a particular White House runs things.

The real point here is that I'm confident that press secretary isn't the most important of those four, and certainly isn't most important by an order of magnitude. Yet that's how the press is playing the announcement of new press secretary Jay Carney, along with the elevation of Nancy-Ann DeParle and Alyssa Mastromonaco to be deputy chiefs-of-staff, and Rob Nabors to run the legislative shop.

This is pure press bias: the press either believes that the person they spend time with is the most important, or are willing to pretend he is in order to (they hope) get more access. As a (long-ago) former Congressional press secretary myself, I tend to be a fan of virtually all WH press secretaries -- I've been in many arguments in which I've defended all of them, Democrats and Republicans, against charges that they were lying weasels or, even worse, that if only they worded things more forcefully their boss would immediately get surging approval ratings. But, really, these other jobs are extremely important, and the emphasis on the press office is, in my view, too bad. Readers of these stories will wind up misinformed about some of the most important people in the government.

Meanwhile, presidency scholar Matthew Dickinson has more about how White House staff turnover is a normal part of the pre-election year.

2 comments:

  1. I mostly agree with you, with the caveat that Gibbs' departure- specifically Gibbs, and specifically his departure, not his replacement- was probably a story interesting/important enough to put it in the same tier as CoS moves. This is all owing to Gibbs' long-standing relationship with Obama, so it goes back to what you said about "how a particular White House is run".

    And that, of course, augers that Carney might not have as deep a tie to Obama. Which might be interesting! But it's also a pretty good reason why his elevation isn't very important...

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  2. Colby,

    See my post today. I'm not really complaining exactly about this, just noting that it happens, and that news consumers should know to where the biases are going to be, and discount accordingly.

    I suspect that Gibbs leaving is less important than Phil Schiliro leaving, FWIW -- although in both cases, as far as I can see things are in pretty good hands.

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