According to a report in Politico, reporters are upset at the way the Biden White House gets to approve the quotes that they gather from sources in the White House. The practice is called, “background with quote approval.”
In other words, if a reporter talks to someone from the Biden administration, they are not allowed to quote them on the record unless they allow the Biden White House to tweak and edit it as they see fit. Why do this?
According to Politico:
The practice allows the White House an extra measure of control as it tries to craft press coverage. At its best, quote approval allows sources to speak more candidly about their work. At its worst, it gives public officials a way to obfuscate or screen their own admissions and words.
The Biden White House isn’t the first to employ the practice. Many reporters say it’s reminiscent of the tightly controlled Obama White House. The Trump White House used it, too.
But reporters say Trump’s team did so less frequently than Biden’s team — which also used the tactic during the campaign — and a number of current White House reporters have become increasingly frustrated by what they see as its abuse. “The rule treats them like coddled Capitol Hill pages and that’s not who they are or the protections they deserve,” said one reporter.
“Every reporter I work with has encountered the same practice,” said another.
But, as is often the case with the unwieldy White House press corps, there is a collective action problem. Reporters are reluctant to say no to using background with quote approval because it could put them at a disadvantage with their competitors. “The only way the press has the power to push back against this is if we all band together,” said the first reporter. At least one White House reporting team has been talking internally about reaching out to other outlets to push the Biden team to stop the practice.
Contrary to what everyone seems to think, America does not have a free press in a meaningful sense.
It is true if you are a reporter, the government isn’t going to shoot your family if you write something they don’t like as they might do in North Korea. However, if you are a reporter at the New York Times, CNN, NBC, etc., are you free to consistently report good things about Republicans or bad things about the Democrats? No, you’re not. Are you make any real attempt to be neutral and unbiased? No. Are you going to tell the truth if it makes Republicans look good and Democrats look bad? No.
In this case, the “watchdogs of the press” are allowing the people they’re covering to change what they said before the public sees it. When the “news” becomes nothing more than politics conducted by different means, it’s really unhealthy for society, but that is where we are in 2021 America.
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