Bad news from the White House


The decision of the White House to grant a daily press pass to blogger Garrett M. Graff is being hailed as a breakthrough, rating a story in the New York Times and much attention across the blogosphere. It is certainly a better decision than denying the credential would have been, but I find myself alarmed at the process employed by Press Secretary Scott McClellan:

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said he had met with the White House Correspondents Association and they had decided to let Mr. Graff in. "It is the press corps' briefing room and if there are any new lines to be drawn, it should be done by their association," he said.

Ceding to the current members of the club the authority to decide who is and who isn't a legitimate "journalist" is a huge mistake. In effect, this makes them a guild with control over membership in the craft. Given the left—leaning character of the membership, do we really want to give them control over who gets to ask questions?

In Japan, a decades—long complaint of the foreign press corps was the structure of 'press clubs' accredited to cover various important government ministries. Without membership in a press club, a journalist was excluded from press conferences and other opportunities to interact with senior government officials. In effect, they were locked—out of access to breaking news.

This situation was roundly criticized by Western journalists who for many years were completely denied access to the press clubs, and in more recent years have been able to join selected press clubs in limited numbers. Many have invidiously compared the "open access" to information in the West with the restrictions imposed by the Japanese press clubs. As of today, these critics will have to admit that the American White House is going down the same path as the Japanese, but in the opposite direction.

While it is a step forward that a blogger has been admitted to the White House press briefing room, I fear that it is two steps backward for the guild of left—leaning journalists to be given control over the admissions process.

Thomas Lifson   3 7 05