Obama Eschews Newspaper Interviews

Obama nixes sit-downs with top daily newspapers in favor of TV shows.

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Here's more evidence that the media climate is changing dramatically and the White House is doing its best to exploit the situation: President Obama has given relatively few interviews to newspapers over the past four years, and he apparently has no intention of changing his ways.

The Washington Post finds that President Obama has developed a pattern of declining to grant interviews to traditionally important newpapers, including the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. The Times last had an interview with Obama in 2010. The Post and the Journal last interviewed him on the record nearly four years ago. Neither the Los Angeles Times nor the Boston Globe has ever had an on-the-record interview with President Obama, according to The Post.

[READ: President Obama Has No Comment]

The Post found that television gets far and away the most presidential interviews. Among the shows getting his attention are 60 Minutes and The View.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told The Post that Obama grants interviews on the basis of "the best use of the president's time. ... He's done TV and print, and will continue to do both."

Elieen Muirragui of Prince William County, Va., looks at the newspaper front pages posted outside the Newseum in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012.
Elieen Muirragui of Prince William County, Va., looks at the newspaper front pages posted outside the Newseum in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012.

But the reasons for Obama's stiffing of major newspapers are clear. Newspapers are less important in the new media world, with declining readership and less influence; meanwhile, social media and TV are more important than ever. Just as crucial, the president seems better able to control his message in TV interviews with carefully selected journalists because he is generally accorded at least some periods when he can speak without interruption; in print interviews, his remarks are often heavily edited.

It wasn't too long ago—within about a dozen years—that the major newspapers expected and received exclusive interviews with a president at least once a year. That tradition no longer applies.

[BROWSE: Political Cartoons on President Obama]

Presidents can, of course, grant interviews to whomever they want, But another key part of today's media reality is that presidents are less subject to pressure from the media than they have been in many years because the "mainstream media" are so distrusted by the public.

Many Americans don't think the mainstream media actually represent them any more, and people believe they don't have much of a stake in media access to the president.

A Pew Research Center survey last year found that 56 percent of Americans had a positive opinion of the news media while 44 percent had a negative opinion, an erosion of credibility since 2010 when 62 percent had a positive view and 38 percent were negative. Local television news was considered most believable, with 65 percent having positive opinions of local TV news and 35 percent negative. Fifty-seven percent had positive opinions of the daily newspaper they "knew best," and 43 percent had negative opinions.

Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. Walsh also is the author of Feeding the Beast: The White House versus the Press. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and followed on Facebook and Twitter.