The White House Does Approve This Message

As reporters vie for access to politicians, they’ve increasingly given veto power to campaign communication staffs over what quotes appear, how they appear and to whom they are attributed.

And so it goes with Michael Lewis’ new article in Vanity Fair about President Obama.

Via the New York Times:

Like other journalists who write about Washington and presidential politics, Mr. Lewis said that he had to submit to the widespread but rarely disclosed practice of quote approval

During a discussion at Lincoln Center on Monday night with Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, Mr. Lewis volunteered to the audience that as a condition of cooperating with his story, the White House insisted on signing off on the quotes that would appear.

Mr. Lewis said that ultimately the White House disallowed very little of what he asked to use. And he described having access to the president that was unusually unfettered. About 95 percent of what he witnessed was on the record, he said.

Don’t want something to appear? Take it off the record. But that news organizations continue to play by these rules is troubling.

Let’s, for a minute, remember William Randolph Hearst’s simple adage: “News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising.”

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