This past week, the White House did something I was expecting ever since the release of the Whitewater papers way back in the Clinton term.
The media mavens at the White House assembled a news package for distribution directly from the Oval Office. I caught a bit of it on C-SPAN this weekend. It’s slick, error-free and certainly scripted. The only thing that is missing is the teleprompters, or at least teleprompters we could see.
Now that’s a big change. No probing White House commentators from Fox News or tough questions from a renegade reporter. It’s the White House taking charge and controlling the message and the medium.
That’s a beautiful thing for us PR people. Or is it?
Bypassing the mainstream media is a popular idea. Why go through gatekeepers when you can talk directly to your constituents? When the Whitewater papers issued forth from Big Government during an embattled period for the Clintons, it was, to me, a landmark event. The investigative diatribe was released to everyone at the same time. No press interpretation at the onset. Immediately, the media was struggling to make it through thousands of pages of documents while the public had an unfettered and unedited version of the investigation right on the computer.
Technology and the Internet have changed the news cycle, the delivery of G2 and public relations strategies. That’s clear.
Where do we go from here?
Well, I will go back to my days in graduate school at American University. One of my professors, a former clerk at the Supreme Court, taught me a thing or two about government. He said that one of the advantages government has is its role as keeper of vast amounts of information, and that translates into expertise and power. Big Government is pregnant with billions of pieces of information and in many instances the bureaucrats are the only ones with that specific information. That means they have power and expertise and can operate from a position of authority.
And that my friends, is why the executive branch can hold its own, unedited and unadulterated, direct-to-the-people press conference.