Using The Age Of New Media To Control The Story

The U.K. Daily Mail posted an Associated Press article today about how the Obama Administration is using the new media to avoid scrutiny of their policies. Like previous administrations the Obama Administration has controlled access to the President, but they have gone a step further.

The article reports:

Capitalizing on the possibilities of the digital age, the Obama White House is generating its own content like no president before, and refining its media strategies in the second term in hopes of telling a more compelling story than in the first.

At the same time, it is limiting press access in ways that past administrations wouldn’t have dared, and the president is answering to the public in more controlled settings than his predecessors. It’s raising new questions about what’s lost when the White House tries to make an end run around the media, functioning, in effect, as its own news agency.

These people make Pravda look like amateurs.

The article draws a conclusion about the dangers of a White House news agency:

And while plenty of news organizations cover the president’s State of the Union address, the commentary that accompanies the White House’s ‘enhanced’ version is more one-sided.

When viewers choose the White House as their news source, ‘what people are being exposed to is highly selective,’ says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center.

‘They’re not getting the balance of the alternative points of view. They’re not getting the criticism that asks, “Is this accurate?” It’s not being put in historical context.’

Jamieson says the White House-generated content can be highly seductive, particularly when people feel they’re developing a ‘direct relationship’ with White House officials who send out chatty mass emails and solicit feedback through social media.

Democratic and Republican veterans of the White House alike say it makes sense for the Obama administration to maximize its use of digital advances to communicate directly to the public, but they warn that something is missing when ‘the administration’s feet are not held to the fire’ in certain settings, in the words of Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary under Bush.

Kumar, the Towson professor, warns that the administration can even delude itself if it puts too much emphasis on self-reinforcing content.

‘They start believing what they’re creating,’ she says. ‘They need to hear a lot of voices and they need to hear them early.’

One of the reasons for the success of the new media (outside the White House new media) is that people who want to stay informed are willing to look for the other side of the story. The current administration’s control of the story and the mainstream media’s bias have combined to create ‘the low information voter.’ This voter would not exist if the mainstream media told both sides of the story. Unfortunately, the low information voter votes based on his knowledge of events. That is the reason we are in our second term of President Obama (aka our third term of Jimmy Carter).

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