Press Capture


Yesterday, Felix Salmon observed that at the highest levels politics and media tend to merge:

Most readers of the press I think are unaware of just how much off-the-record schmoozing of journalists goes on at the very highest levels of government. Geithner was by no means exceptional in this respect: if you’re a senior editor at a major news publication, you can expect regular meetings with VIPs up to and including heads of state, substantially all of them off the record.

The journalists are excited and flattered by all this attention, which amounts to capture of key opinion-formers by the very people being covered. (The VIPs wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work.) But of course no FOIA request will ever uncover the list of officials invited to lunch with the NYT editorial board, and the NYT itself keeps such information very close to its chest.

What I’ve found remarkable about this dynamic, in my years in and around the field of professional political journalism, is that journalists almost invariably—and quite sincerely—believe that these kind of sessions are increasing their level of insight into what’s going on. There’s a kind of inevitable arrogance to the whole thing; nobody thinks of themselves as the one who’s being manipulated. And the fact that journalists generally think of themselves as being much smarter than the politicians and PR hands with whom they tangle makes them all the easier to manipulate.