Obama Fixated on N.Y. Times
By Don Irvine
Monday June 15, 2009

The New York Times may be struggling financially but they are experiencing boom times when it comes to White House access.

From the Politico

There used to be an old yarn in Washington that went like this:

Four journalists are sitting in the waiting room of an important government official’s office. The receptionist rings her boss to announce, “Sir, there are three reporters and a gentleman from The New York Times here to see you.”

The story is a relic of an earlier age, when the Times loomed like Olympus over elite journalism. But the mind-set is enjoying a revival in the Age of Obama.

Where George W. Bush’s team made a show of not caring about the Times, aides in this White House treat the paper with a deference that James Reston himself would have appreciated.

Young aides boast about how social networking helped President Barack Obama first win the presidency and now promotes his message outside the filter of mainstream journalism. The president grants interviews to Hispanic journalists on Univision and calls on reporters from newcomers like Huffington Post (and POLITICO) at news conferences.

But for all its new media airs, the new White House team remains in the thrall of perhaps the most emblematic old media institution of all.

Senior Obama officials during the transition posed for Times Sunday Magazine portraits and then opened the doors again with top-level access for another major magazine piece this month on health care. Midlevel officials cooperate for Times profiles detailing their key behind-the-scenes roles.

Even routine news stories buried deep inside the A-section of the Times often quote high-level sources speaking both on and off the record.

One part of Obama’s Times fixation is strategy. For all the proliferation of news outlets, Obama aides believe the paper still has an outsize ability to shape perceptions among political elites and other journalists.

But part of the relationship is more complicated, according to some close observers, flowing from a cultural affinity that makes Obamaites crave the validation that comes from being written about by the Times.

If it wasn’t for the long entrenched liberal bias of the Times I would have suspected that this kow-towing to the White House was part of a grander scheme to convince Obama that the paper is “too big to fail” and deserves a government bailout.

Crossposted at the Accuracy in Media blog.

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