The press, especially the White House press corp, is upset at the White House for not keeping them up-to-date on the medical status of Harry Whittington, the victim in Vice President Dick Cheney’s hunting accident. My question is this – since when is it the White House’s job to do the press’ job.
This is actually one field I have some experience in – on both sides.
My first job out of college was at a decent size bi-weekly newspaper. I did some reporting, photography and layout. (I still have a press pass…just in case.) In college I was a reporter and editor for our college newspaper. I graduated with a degree focusing on journalism. I know the duties and responsibilities of a journalist. My role as a journalist is to get to the bottom of a story, to find out all the facts regardless of what I am told
Currently, I work in public relations for the university from which I graduated. My job is to promote the school in the best positive light. I send out releases and information that highlight the image that we seek to present to the public. If a negative story comes up, we do not hide the information, but we do not trumpet it to all the media. My role is completely different and I am not supposed to seek out damaging information, if I did I would be a very bad at what I did.
The mainstream media has tons of resources and often sends reporters to out-of-the-way places to track down a story. The bigger the story the more high profile the reporter being sent will be. That is the life of most reporters – tracking down leads, chasing stories all over their coverage area (which happens to be the nation and even the world for the MSM).
But none of the normal rules apply to the White House press corp – they are exempt from all the hassle and work of an average journalist. They get feed information by the White House. They get fed information by their paper or station. They ask tough questions of the White House and write stories.
They have become used to living off the king and constantly bitting the hand that feeds them. When the news broke of the accident involving Cheney, the media’s (especially the White House press corp) first reaction was “Why didn’t you tell me?” It was of no concern for if the White House told the proper authorities, if the man was okay, etc. It was “why didn’t I know about this sooner?”
Maybe the White House should have told the press sooner than the next day. I really don’t know and really don’t care. It’s not like the VP left a woman to drown in a pond while he wanted until the next day to call for any rescue workers or the police.
If the media wants to spend their time debating that idiotic question, it’s their time wasting. My objection is the current fuss over the White House not releasing the information about Whittington’s heart attack. Since when has it become the White House’s job to track down stories for the press and to release medical information about someone not officially connected to the White House.
If the reporters were so concerned about Whittington’s condition and the story, why were they not either down at Corpus Christi covering it or at least calling the hospital to see if they could release the medical information. The White House is not supposed to release that type of information. It is up to an individual and the doctors caring for him whether information will be released and then it is through the hospital’s channels.
I see nothing wrong, from the standpoint of a public relations professional, with what the White House did. They did not cover any information up, nor did they wait months, weeks or even days to answer questions about the incident.
Should the White House held a press conference to inform the media about the accident the minute it happened? “Who cares if all of Whittington’s family knows about the accident, we’ve got a deadline to make!”
As I said, I have been on both sides of the situation and all I see is public relations professionals doing their job and a lazy press wanting someone else to do theirs.