Change we can't even read about, let alone believe -

Change we can’t even read about, let alone believe


We’re cranky at Barack Obama over here in the sprawling Maclean’s Ottawa bureau. Turns out the new president is failing an elementary test of transparency.

This afternoon I read that Robert Gibbs, the new president’s press secretary, had disputed details of the New York Times report on Afghanistan strategy I wrote about last night. Well. Over to to look for a transcript of the press briefing.

And look. And look. And look. In vain. Because the new administration, unlike at least the Clinton and Bush 43 administrations, doesn’t post full transcripts of daily press briefings on the website. There is no end of touchy-feely Web 2.0 crap on the website, but a pretty drastic reduction in the amount of actual information, compared to what Obama’s most recent predecessors made available. On the White House blog, which I already dislike robustly, there is  one  partial transcript of stuff the anonymous White House blogger thinks we’ll find interesting from one briefing a couple of days ago.

This has caused a kerfuffle here and there in the U.S. blogosphere. Apparently there’s even a Facebook group. It confirms Obama’s reputation as a guy with an unhealthy tendency to try to control his own narrative at real cost to openness and transparency. It is dispiriting and, to anyone who’s worked as a journalist in Ottawa in the last couple of years, too familiar.

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Change we can’t even read about, let alone believe

  1. Oh no, now they’ll have to watch the tape.

  2. What do you mean, “they”? Any person on the planet with an internet connection used to be able to read every word of a White House press briefing within hours after it happened. That’s over. So you have to “watch the tape” too, DR. Fun question: Where’s the tape?

    • Any person on the planet with an Internet connection can email the WH press office to get a full transcript. I agree with your premise and don’t think email availability is a complete substitute, but for fairness’ sake that fact should not be left out.

      • It’s a ridiculous substitute. And I’m not even an American taxpayer, who is apparently paying someone to read and reply to these e-mails with attached transcripts. Have you done this? Do you know how long it takes? Have you done this while trying to write a story for a deadline?

        I haven’t, but I know I would absolutely loathe having to sit around waiting for some e-mail just to get previously instantly-available information.

  3. Well , for now at least , CNN is showing the thing live every afternoon. Which surprises me because that never happened during the Bush years …. that I recall.

    I don’t watch it all because a lot of the questions are really stupid.

    Maybe it ( or parts ) are in The CNN video library ?

    • I rarely watch CNN these days. Is Wolf Blitzer still there, or has he been seconded to the stand-up comedy curcuit yet?

      • Wolf , and Rick Sanchez , and Lou Dobbs, and ……. whatever.

        I watch it in brief intervals for the entertainment value.

        My wife , on the other hand , replays Olberman and Maddow at full volume at 5:30 in the morning.

        I hate early risers.

  4. It also occurs to me that , apparently , the WH is having no end of trouble with their email system.

    Maybe a lot of systems are down for updating ?

  5. I’ll say it’s dispiriting. Aren’t we supposed to be advancing as a species? Not regressing! Although iv’e often wondered if politicians are, strictly speaking members of our species.

  6. Oh no, is Obama not the Messiah?
    *covers face and hides in corner* “George Bush, George Bush…”

  7. One wised up, only a couple thousand journalists to go.

    • Ah the sharks have arrived! There must be blood in the water!

  8. OK, it’s not just me then, or growing pains for the site.

    On inauguration day, I went to the site around around 12:45 or so, looking for a copy of his Inaugural Speech. I looked and looked, and searched using their search engine using several different search strings, but couldn’t find it anywhere.

    • Why on earth would you be going to the WH for a transcript? That speech was available on just about every news outlet on the planet.

  9. Obama and Harper — separated at birth? :p

  10. Obama ran a campaign based on image with no substance. Now the white house has a web site based on image with no substance.

    No wonder Hollywood likes the guy.

  11. Well, there goes your invitation

  12. It confirms Obama’s reputation as a guy with an unhealthy tendency to try to control his own narrative at real cost to openness and transparency.

    Reputation with who, exactly?

      • Sooooo…. hostile bloggers it is then?

        While I’m quite glad to see that Mr. Wells has embraced Web 2.0 enough to get his cues from sites like “Moonbattery”, might I suggest a somewhat more…focused…method of citation? Being a journalist and all.

    • Good question, Desmosthenes, because the impression I am getting is that the “blogosphere” in question is the one that never liked Obama to begin with.

  13. I noticed that too. It’s a glaring admission, and one that needs to be corrected asap.

    The YouTube daily/weekly videos are useful, but ultimately no replacement for a transcript.

    Also, maybe Wells knows whether the White House and Ottawa press galleries gather their own transcripts? And if not, why not?

  14. Another question occurs to me: what did reporters do before the White House posted transcripts on the internet?

    Probably nothing. I don’t recall a lot of investigative journalism in the Nixon to Reagan period.