"But when will he hold a solo presser?" - A whiny beltway press demands presidential pampering


The freedom of the press is one of the most cherished, inviolable rights under the US Constitution. The framers thought it critical because they believed that ultimately, it is not enough that the government derive its powers from the consent of the governed, but that in order to be just, such consent must constitute informed consent of the governed. 

Informing the governed: that is the purpose of the press. The sole reason the press is protected from the government rules, regulations, and restrictions on the content it can publish or spread is because the role of the press, in a democratic society, is to inform the public about what the government is doing without fearing retribution from that same government.

Central to the press's role to inform the public is, of course, information, and core to the press's Constitutional role of obtaining and publishing information is access. Access to government and business documents, data, personnel, and whistleblowers are so important that reporters would rather spend a few nights in a jail cell than divulge sources and methods that can compromise their access to information.

But it's important to remember that access is not the goal; information is. Access is a tool, a  means to an end, but the end goal is information.

And yet, access peddling - and access for access' sake - appears to have taken over the American beltway media scene. Whether that access leads to meaningful, new, and unique pieces of information - or even meaningful, new, and unique perspectives on information already available - has become secondary.

As access journalism has sought to replace information journalism, journalists have taken on new roles as well. Rather than letting the information they report be the star of the story, they have often sought out the limelight themselves. Whom they have access to has become more important than what they are able to shed light on. The size of their rolodexes has become more important than the depth of the information they are imparting to the public. Instead of fearless pursuit of the truth, they have dedicated themselves the egotistical pursuit of self-importance and begun to take umbrage when public officials fail to adequately pamper them.

Nothing better explains the recent fake scandal over the fact that President Biden has not held a solo press conference with the esteemed members of the White House press corps since becoming president less than two months ago. His predecessors had held multiple press conferences by this point in their presidencies, they fret, and it's just so unfair that Joe Biden, a president who, after being denied a normal transition by his predecessor and being thrown in the middle of multiple crises from day one of his term, isn't making the pampering of beltway media's attention-hungry princes and princesses a higher priority.

It's not as though the media has been locked out of the information they need to keep the American public informed. In fact, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki - who speaks for the President - has held a press briefing every single weekday Biden has been in office, including on the day of his inauguration, often with other important administration officials - including cabinet secretaries - briefing the press and thoroughly answering questions on critical policy issues.

In addition to the daily press conferences by the Press Secretary, the White House coronavirus task force has religiously provided routine updates three times a week, every week. And of course, the different departments and agencies within the government has held their own press availabilities throughout this young administration. For example, since Biden has taken office, the Department of State has held 31 press briefings, the Pentagon 27.

The Biden White House's press availability is especially stellar when compared with the vacuum that it replaced. The Trump administration had eliminated the daily White House press briefings and was increasingly secluded from the questions of the press and the public. Donald Trump's unhinged Twitter tirades - which conveniently came without the vetting of press questions - became the predominant mode of communications from the White House, and Trump himself stomped out of his last one-on-one sitdown with a member of the press.

President Biden, in contrast, has not only sat down but completed  interview and townhalls wit multiple outlets since becoming president, including People Magazine, CBS News' Norah O'Donnell, and CNN's Anderson Cooper. He even did a halftime interview for the Superbowl. And it was announced just Sunday that the President will sit down for yet another one-on-one with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, which is set to air on Wednesday.

The president found time to do all that while being extraordinarily busy - and not just regular-president kind of busy. President Biden, Vice President Harris, and their administration has moved at the speed of light to get a country left in tatters by the Trump administration back in shape. On Saturday, 4.5 million COVID vaccines were administered in the US, nearly doubling the record set the previous day. The president has dismantled one harmful Trump policy after another - from the Muslim ban to the prohibition against transgender Americans to serve in the military - and on his 50th day in office, signed the largest economic stimulus package in history that will, in addition to delivering much needed economic payments to Americans, cut child poverty in half, into law. One could say the President has had a few things on his plate.

All of that notwithstanding, what would they ask if they got the chance to question the businest human being on the planet?

So far, the questions they appear to be itching to ask the president are of such national importance as whether he will put down his dog, how dare he travel home on Air Force One when commercial travel is recommended against by the CDC, and what he thinks about Andrew Cuomo's predicament.

Not one member of the complaining media class has articulated what substantive, policy-related question they would like to ask of the President that they think the White House press secretary cannot answer or that cannot be answered through a myriad of other ways, including the president's sit-down interviews.

That's because there are no such serious questions. This is not about anything substantive. This is about what the beltway media class sees as a new president's refusal to put pampering their fragile egos ahead of the interests of the country.

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