[VIDEO] Spare Me Your Hypocritical Journalism Lecture, Mr. President

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At an awards ceremony, Obama praises journalists. Back in the White House, he blocks honest press queries with all his power.

Jack Shafer writes: The last person in the world who should be lecturing journalists on how to do journalism is President Barack Obama. Yet there Obama was Monday night at a journalism award ceremony, yodeling banalities about the role of a press in a free society, moaning over the dangers posed by “he said/she said” reporting, and—to the delight of the assembled audience—attacking Donald Trump in every way but name.

“The administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration.”

— Leonard Downie Jr. in a Committee to Protect Journalists report

The press-heavy crowd, convened by Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications to give the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting to Alec MacGillis, clapped at Obama’s 30-minute address, encouraging his best Trump-baiting lines about “free media” and the dangers of “false equivalence.”

At the awards dinner for Syracuse’s Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, President Barack Obama lectured the media and their responsibilities toward an informed electorate.

What they should have done is bombard Obama with rotten fruit or ripped him with raspberries for his hypocrisy.

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“Shame on Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications for allowing Obama—a documented opponent of the press—to pontificate on journalistic practice.”

How do we hate Obama’s treatment of the press? Let me count the ways. Under his administration, the U.S. government has set a new record for withholding Freedom of Information Act requests, according to a recent Associated Press investigation.

[Read the full story here, at POLITICO Magazine]

FOIA gives the public and press an irreplaceable view into the workings of the executive branch. Without timely release of government documents and data, vital questions can’t be answered and stories can’t be written.

“The only press award he has any business awarding is a special commendation to Trump, thanking him for making Obama look like a free-speech radical by comparison.”

Obama’s “Insider Threat Program” has turned employees across the government—from the Peace Corps to the Social Security Administration to the Department of Agriculture—into information-squelching snitches. If this isn’t Trumpian behavior, I don’t know what is.

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“What makes Obama’s speech so unstomachable is the way he praises reporters at an award ceremony by calling their work ‘indispensable,’ ‘incredible,’ ‘worth honoring’ and essential to democracy while simultaneously blocking honest press queries with all the formidable energies of his office.”

“Obama hates the press,” New York Times national security reporter James Risen said not long ago, “and he hates leaks.” AP Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee has decried the “day-to-day intimidation of sources” by the Obama administration, judging it worse than the Bush administration on that score. And in a 2013 piece, POLITICO’s Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen documented Obama’s mastery of “limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House.”

As ProPublica has reported, at the same time the Obama administration has been paying lip service to protecting whistleblowers, it has pursued national security leaks to the press with a vehemence unmatched by any previous administration, using the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers who leak to journalists more times than all previous administrations combined. Obama holds infrequent news conferences, and he wastes reporters’ time by refraining from answering questions with any candor. He claims to helm “the most transparent administration in history,” while bending government policies and practices toward secrecy.

“The administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration,” wrote Leonard Downie Jr. in a Committee to Protect Journalists report. And it’s not just Downie complaining. You could break Google by asking it to list all the top journalists who regard the Obama administration as Press Enemy No. 1.

The deeper you study Obama’s relationship with the press, the more…(read more)

Source: POLITICO Magazine

Jack Shafer is Politico’s senior media writer.



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