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White House press grumbles as Obama does YouTube

February 8, 2010 |  9:37 am

Obama_online_townhall_march_2009_1

When it comes to media accessibility, it's not like President Obama has been a shrinking violet.

"We have probably done more interviews with more reporters at this point in our presidency than anybody else has," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said recently.

But the man who came to office as a darling of the BlackBerry generation, with a cadre of Internet supporters who were fired up and ready to go, has not surprisingly turned to new media to help convey his message, including a recent YouTube session and outreach to bloggers. "The man has even done color commentary at a Georgetown basketball game," writes the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz.

But full-scale, nighttime presidential news conferences? The kind where reporters get all glam for the East Room cameras and careers are made with the telling question? Not so much.

“The power and influence among the press used to be concentrated in a small handful of people who sit in the first two rows of the White House briefing room,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer told the New York Times. “And that’s no longer the case.”

The reason: “On any given day, an item on Huffington Post or the Drudge Report can be as influential as something in the New York Times or Washington Post.

The decision to shift media attention away from the traditional powers in the White House press corps to a new generation is not sitting well with reporters who cram the White House briefing every day to ferret out news.

"It's a source of great frustration here," said Chip Reid, CBS' White House correspondent. "It's important for us to hold the president's feet to the fire."

Better get used to it.

Obama hasn't held a formal news conference in six months, and Gibbs told the Post that the next one will be during the day, carried only on cable. "We get that going to that well too many times doesn't make sense for anybody," he said.

What the heck, Fox News won't cover it anyway.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: President Obama takes questions during a March 2009 online town hall. Credit: White House

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