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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Black Bloggers to Obama: 'We are not willing to be 'pimped'


White House Meeting for Black Journalists Doesn’t Stay Off-The-Record for Long

The White House is usually quite good at keeping a muzzle on the media after one of its off-the-record sessions with President Obama and senior members of his administration.
But not this week.
A group of black bloggers and journalists from outlets like Essence and BET were invited to the White House on Monday for a half-day of policy briefings by the president’s advisers. The White House provided the journalists with an agenda that spelled out the ground rules: the first half of their briefings was to be on background, meaning they could report any information they learned but not attribute it to any specific official; the second half was off the record entirely.
Still, that did not stop bloggers from writing about the event and, in one case, posting a video of the president’s remarks to the group.

The blog ConcreteLoop.com has 
posted a clip of Mr. Obama’s meet-and-greet with the journalists in which he stressed the importance of White House outreach to black media, especially blogs with large black followings.
“The media is changing so rapidly,” the president said, acknowledging the role of the Web in allowing his administration to reach out beyond audiences that are mainstream media consumers.
“It allows us to reach audiences that may not be watching ‘Meet the Press’ — not that there’s anything wrong with ‘Meet the Press.’ I’m just saying that, you know, it might be a different demographic,” he added, stirring a few laughs from the group.
The black blogosphere, he added, was a crucial medium through which the White House could covey its message and get feedback from the black community.
“Part of what’s so powerful about the Web is that it’s not just a one way conversation. And what that then means is we have the capacity potentially to get information about how people are thinking, what their concerns are, what’s working, what’s not in the way that allows us to do our job better,” he said, adding, “We’re very excited about the possibility of our interaction.”
The White House periodically reaches out to members of the media through off-the-record sessions with journalists. The president has hosted recent gatherings with prominent liberal commentators like Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post and Gail Collins of The New York Times. And after complaints from the White House Correspondents Association that the president and his staff parcel out access too sparingly, Mr. Obama hosted a group of reporters for lunch in August.
Few details about either of those events — even the complete list of invitees — ever leaked out. But some of the bloggers who visited the White House on Monday apparently felt unbound by the ground rules.
The blog Jack and Jill Politics, which bills itself as a having “a black bourgeoisie perspective,” wrote that Valerie Jarrett committed to having more meetings with black bloggers.
Jack and Jill Politics also wrote about the feeling among some who attended Monday’s gathering that they were being used for political expediency. “We essentially told the White House that we are not willing to be ‘pimped,’” the blog said. “Oh, we used better articulation, but it was direct and could not be taken out of context, misunderstood or ignored.
Keli Goff, an author and blogger who writes for theloop21.com, a news and opinion Web site aimed at a black audience, agreed with that sentiment. “I respect that the second half of the briefing was off the record, but I feel comfortable enough to say I think we made it clear that we want to be taken just as seriously and receive the same measure of access as the mainstream outlets already do,” she said. “This was a good first date. Now let’s see if there some substance there going forward.”
Angel Laws, editor of the ConcreteLoop.com, declined to comment.
The attention the meeting received in the black blogosphere highlighted the vast gap that remained between mainstream media outlets and ones focused at minority groups. Though the meeting occurred on Monday and had been a topic of discussion in black media circles for three days, it received virtually no attention in the mainstream press.

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