Press Getting More Adversarial With Obama

Some expect Obama's news conference to take on a more negative tone.

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Print reporters in the White House press corps are seething at perceived slights against them by President Obama and his team. Many print journalists see their role being diminished as Obama and his aides seem to lavish attention on television anchors and reporters and on liberal bloggers, and this is raising the adversarial tone at the daily briefings of Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Monday, Gibbs was asked pointedly if Obama would call on the same news organizations that he has chosen in his past news conferences—about a dozen—and members of the press corps took this as a sign that the print reporters aren't going to let the preferential-treatment issue die. Obama, in four full-scale news conferences so far in his presidency (three in prime time), makes a habit of picking—in advance—representatives of the Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox News.

He usually adds a liberal voice, such as a blogger, and a member of a minority-oriented news organization. And since his opening statement tends to be a minispeech and his answers usually run long, this leaves little time to call on other reporters in the hourlong format. Reporters at Gibbs's briefing Monday also raised objections to Obama's practice of preselecting those he calls on and operating from a list. Many reporters consider this too manipulative and too rigidly orchestrated. But Gibbs declined to agree to make any changes. Gibbs's briefings and Obama's news conferences have taken on a more adversarial tone in recent weeks as Obama's agenda has run into trouble on Capitol Hill and as his approval ratings have declined. This is expected to continue tonight at Obama's scheduled 8 p.m. news conference. For their part, White House aides say the president mostly wants to make his case, again, for fast action on overhauling the healthcare system.