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McCurry on White House Briefings

Despite the fact that he worked for Bill Clinton, Mike McCurry is probably one of the coolest people I know. He was great to work for and just a lot of fun. But more than that, he’s down to earth and not full of the pretension that consumes a lot of politicos in Washington.

I was not surprised to see him criticizing the White House News Briefing that he helped create. I’m also not surprised that he considers the decision to open it to TV to be a terrible call.

“It was a huge error on my part,” Mr. McCurry recalled the other day… “It has turned into a theater of the absurd.

That is right on the money. Any time you introduce the exposure of television into an equation and add the possibility of fame, you’re asking for trouble. The White House Press Briefings used to provide an opportunity for the White House to talk to the media – to keep them informed. They provided the media with unfettered access and a chance to ask questions that would get a real answer.

Now they provide an opening for opportunistic reporters to grandstand for the cameras. They provide an opportunity for political hacks to pitch the party line without regard for honesty or open government. They provide more cinema for the masses while solving none of our nation’s problems.

I’m told there was a time when journalists wanted to report on the days events, and to tell the story. I’m too young to have witnessed it, but I have assurances that it worked that way once.

Journalists today want to be part of the story. They want to parlay the small role they play into fame. Like the Olympics I bitched about last week, it’s no longer about the job or the event, it’s about the money and business behind the event.

Like the speed skaters who turned their few minutes of competition into media celebrity by acting like small children, the media of today forgot why they are there. It’s not for fame. They play a vital role in our society, and increasingly that role is being filled by nice-looking pinheads who have no concern about the issues but obsess about ratings, promotions, and which anchors are on death watch.

That’s why blogs have gained so much credibility. Bloggers want to answer questions and solve problems.

I used to think I had lost my idealism while working in politics. I had seen enough to know I have seen too much. But I don’t think I actually lost it. I just misplaced it. It had become an inconvenience while working in politics, so I put it aside and like my car keys, it had vanished temporarily.

I’m glad to say I have found it again. And I’m glad to see someone like McCurry still has his as well. It makes me feel better about our society.

Written by Michael Turk