The small world of the Washington press corps is rocking, and it’s about time.
The first question at the daily White House press briefing Wednesday went to a young TV reporter from small-market Rhode Island, Kim Kalunian. Not CNN, or the Associated Press, or Washington Post. Little WPRI 12 Eyewitness News.
“It was such an amazing experience to be able to be in that room,” Kalunian said in an interview.
Kalunian was actually there virtually as one of the four “Skype seat” questioners picked by the Trump administration, the first reporter ever outside Washington to participate in a briefing.
She’s not a pushover or a Trump suckup. Her question — about the president’s threat to end federal funding to sanctuary cities like Providence — wasn’t scripted or screened. But the reaction from the establishment was predictable.
“Skype seats = softballs?” tweeted CNN’s Brian Stelter, who included screen shots of tweets critical of the Skype questions. Other alleged media were even more offended.
Yes, there were a couple of friendly websites in two of the Skype seats, but to attack Kalunian and others for throwing “softballs” is rich. The Obama administration got more friendly pitches from the media than your average high school softball team.
The establishment media should not be the ones controlling the briefings. Getting a coveted seat in the White House press room should not mean you get to ask all the questions.
Kalunian’s chances of getting in a question under previous administrations were nearly nonexistent. Other reporters are allowed into the briefings, but good luck asking a question. There is a pecking order in the White House press corps, and outsiders are not part of the clique.
The Trump administration is now taking aim at the Beltway crowd, trying to diminish their influence and even talking about moving them out of the White House. Outrage! You’d think Trump had just trampled on the Constitution.
The Skype seats are the latest shot at the bow of the teetering traditional media. Judging by the first day, the virtual questions should not only stay, but be expanded to every briefing. Press Secretary Sean Spicer has made some bonehead moves, but this isn’t one of them.
There is one inherent problem with Skype — it’s hard to ask a follow-up if you’re not in the room. Kalunian said she was frustrated at not being able to pin down Spicer.
But guess what? Reporters who are there can ask follow-ups. The problem is they rarely do, because that would mean they would have to abandon the obviously brilliant question they had planned.
And for those conspiracy theorists who think the White House wrote the Skype questions, Kalunian says you can relax. She got a call the day before yesterday’s briefing and didn’t share it with Spicer, the way CNN gave Hillary Clinton a debate question.
“I can only hope that they will continue to do this,” Kalunian said. “I would like to see more reporters nationwide get the opportunity.”
What a reasonable suggestion. Obviously she doesn’t work in Washington.
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