Obama Hosts Meetings With Columnists

Obama Likes “Bull Sessions” With Columnists

Handful of Black Journalists Have Participated

Even as the Obama administration is being criticized as the “most closed, control freak administration I’ve ever covered,” in the words of David E. Sanger of the New York Times, President Obama himself is increasingly talking at length in off-the-record sessions with small groups of opinion columnists, and a handful of black journalists are benefiting.

“It’s always good to know what the president thinks from the president himself,” Jonathan Capehart, an editorial writer at the Washington Post, told Journal-isms by email on Friday.

Writing about the sessions Friday in Politico, Dylan Byers said, “these bull sessions give validation to an oft-heard critique: that Obama prefers the law school salon to the bully pulpit — that he would rather be regarded as smart by the people he regards as smart than be feared by the opposition or seen as effective by the people he governs.”

Capehart told Journal-isms that he had been to three off-the-record sessions with Obama this year. His Post editorial-page colleague, columnist Eugene Robinson, is also considered a regular.

Charles Blow, New York Times columnist; Zerlina Maxwell of the Grio; and Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor and blogger at the Atlantic, have also been spotted there, Capehart said. It could not determined which, if any, Latino, Asian or Native American journalists have been in similar sessions.

DeWayne Wickham, columnist at USA Today, along with Robinson, syndicated columnist Roland S. Martin and Derrick Z. Jackson of the Boston Globe were at a session that took place in the first days of the Obama presidency.

“I’ve been invited to two off-the-record meetings with the president in the past couple years. I attended one and was out of town and couldn’t make the other,” Wickham told Journal-isms by email. “It was during a budget showdown between the president and congressional Republicans and I got some valuable insights.”

But Martin said by email, “I’ve only participated in two. Both were for Sunday morning show hosts. Both lasted an hour and were a far cry from what was described in this piece” by Byers. “It was more of a q and a instead of a debate of ideas.” Martin hosted “Washington Watch With Roland Martin” for TV One, which aired Sundays, until this year.

Byers wrote of the president, “He’s not a schmoozer. He doesn’t like meeting with lawmakers, and he doesn’t particularly care for talking to reporters, either.

But get him in an off-the-record setting with a small group of opinion columnists — the David Brooks and E.J. Dionne types — and he’ll talk for hours.

” ‘He likes the intellectual sparring element of it,’ a source familiar with the president’s thinking told POLITICO. ‘He likes talking to reasonable adversaries.’ 

“He also likes talking to the people he likes to read. The president is a voracious consumer of opinion journalism. Most nights, before going to bed, he’ll surf the Internet, reading the columnists whose opinions he values. One of the great privileges of the presidency is that, when so inclined, he can invite these columnists to his home for meetings that can last as long as two-and-a-half hours.

” ‘It’s not an accident [whom] he invites: He reads the people that he thinks matter, and he really likes engaging those people,’ said one reporter with knowledge of the meetings. ‘He reads people carefully — he has a columnist mentality — and he wants to win columnists over,’ said another.

“The president appreciates the back-and-forth exchanges at the sessions, past participants told POLITICO. He even occasionally asks aides or administration officials what a specific columnist thinks about an issue. Sometimes, the aide will then reach out to the columnist to ask his or her opinion, which has had the unintended effect of spurring the columnist to write a piece expressing his thoughts on that very issue. . . .”

Byers also wrote, “the meetings are very much ‘off the record’ in the sense that the White House stalwartly refuses to discuss any of the details, including who was in attendance. The answer to such inquiries is almost always the same.

” ‘In addition to giving press conferences and interviews, the President meets on occasion with groups of reporters and columnists for off-the-record discussions,’ said Eric Schultz, the White House Deputy Press Secretary. ‘We don’t provide lists of participants.’ . . . “

Accused of Racism, Writer Finds Home at National Review

The National Review can’t seem to shake its racist reputation,” Steve Rendall of Fairness Accuracy In Reporting wrote Thursday. “Its latest hire, Jason Richwine, shows why.

Richwine was fired by the Heritage Foundation earlier this year when the Washington Post revealed (5/8) that his graduate research at Harvard argued that Hispanics are immutably, genetically inferior to whites — ‘the low average IQ of Hispanics is effectively permanent’ — and that immigration policy should be IQ-based.

“Last year, the National Review fired columnist John Derbyshire for writing a column in another magazine advising white kids to avoid ‘concentrations of blacks,’ and to fend off charges of prejudice by befriending the rare civilized black person (FAIR Blog, 4/11/12). Editor Rich Lowry announced the firing in a blog post calling the column ‘nasty and indefensible,’ though he failed to call it racist.”

Rendall also wrote, “When the liberal website Think Progress noted Monday (10/28) that Richwine’s byline was appearing on the magazine’s website, they wrote to editor Lowry, who responded briefly, acknowledging that Richwine was doing occasional blogging for the site. . . .”

An inquiry from Journal-isms was directed to National Review Publisher Jack Fowler, who did not respond.

Dylan Matthews, Washington Post: Jason Richwine doesn’t understand why people are mad at him (Aug. 9)

Charles Murray, National Review: In Defense of Jason Richwine (May 15)

Jason Richwine, Politico: Why can’t we talk about IQ? (Aug. 9)

Michael Giarrusso Named AP’s Global Sports Editor

Michael Giarrusso, a former AP sports writer, news editor and state news executive who was instrumental in transforming the news agency’s operations, has been named AP’s global sports editor,” the Associated Press announced on Thursday.

“Giarrusso, chief of bureau for The Associated Press for Arizona and New Mexico for the past three years, will oversee AP’s sports operations and manage more than 100 journalists covering events around the world, including the Olympics, World Cup and Super Bowl. He will be based in New York.

“Giarrusso succeeds Terry Taylor, who retired this month after leading the sports department for 21 years. The appointment was announced Tuesday by Lou Ferrara, the AP managing editor overseeing sports, business and entertainment coverage.”

The news release also noted that Giarrusso is a graduate of the AP’s internship program, which began in the early 1980s as the Minority Internship Program:

“Giarrusso, 43, began his AP career in 1992 as an intern in the Atlanta bureau. He worked as a reporter in Atlanta and then became correspondent in State College, Pa., where he covered Penn State sports and the Little League World Series. He later served as an editor on the AP’s national editing desk in New York and was news editor for Georgia. He worked as an editor at the 2002 Winter Olympics and helped with coverage of sports events in Georgia, including the Super Bowl, the Final Four and the MLB All-Star game. . . .”

Columnist Debunks Health-Care Act Horror Story

Deborah Cavallaro is a hard-working real estate agent in the Westchester suburb of Los Angeles who has been featured prominently on a round of news shows lately, talking about how badly Obamacare is going to cost her when her existing plan gets canceled and she has to find a replacement,” Michael Hiltzik, business columnist at the Los Angeles Times, wrote on Wednesday.

“She says she’s angry at President Obama for having promised that people who like their health plans could keep them, when hers is getting canceled for not meeting Obamacare’s standards.

” ‘Please explain to me,’ she told Maria Bartiromo on CNBC Wednesday, ‘how my plan is a “substandard” plan when … I’d be paying more for the exchange plans than I am currently paying by a wide margin.’

“Bartiromo didn’t take her up on her request. So I will.

“The bottom line is that Cavallaro’s assertion that ‘there’s nothing affordable about the Affordable Care Act,’ as she put it Tuesday on NBC Channel 4, is the product of her own misunderstandings, abetted by a passel of uninformed and incurious news reporters.

“I talked with Cavallaro, 60, after her CNBC appearance. . . .”

Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America: Called On To Explain Big Story, Media Botches Obamacare

Steven Brill, Columbia Journalism Review: Stories I’d like to see

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: ‘Obamacare’ or Affordable Care Act, it still belongs to the president

Tim Giago, Indianz.com: Only Tom Daschle can save the Affordable Care Act

Trudy Lieberman, Columbia Journalism Review: An Obamacare reality check from reporters on the ground

Jason Linkins, Huffington Post: What Obama Really Meant When He Said ‘If You Like Your Plan, You Can Keep It’

Brendan Nyhan, Columbia Journalism Review: The failure to factcheck ‘You can keep it’ 

Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: Competence matters then and now (Oct. 26)

Erik Wemple, Washington Post: Is Fox News reporter fair and balanced on Obamacare?

Norman Pearlstine Back, Martha Nelson Out at Time Inc.

Time Inc. announced a sweeping reorg as it prepares to spin off from Time Warner, bringing back Norman Pearlstine, its onetime editor in chief, as evp, chief content officer and having editors now reporting directly to the business side,” Lucia Moses wrote Thursday for adweek.com.

Martha Nelson, a longtime Time Inc. editor who became Time Inc.’s first woman editor in chief in December 2012, is leaving the company after less than a year in the position.”

In March, Constance C.R. White disclosed that her departure as editor-in-chief of Time Inc.-owned Essence magazine was involuntary and the result of repeated clashes with Nelson, who White said sought to limit the way black women were portrayed. Others have defended Nelson.

It was under Pearlstine that Time Inc. launched People en Español, which the company calls the largest-selling Spanish-language magazine in America. That publication began on a test basis in 1997, a result of the March 31, 1995, killing of the Tejano singer Selena in Corpus Christi, Texas, by the former head of her fan club.

Most Time Inc. employees didn’t know who Selena was, much less the extent of her following, but Latino employees suggested that she be put on the cover of the Southwest and Texas editions of People. The issue “sold spectacularly,” Pearlstine told Journal-isms in 2005. More important, he said, was the role of Latino employees in expanding Time Inc.’s horizons.

Time Inc.’s four employee “affinity groups” were also created under Pearlstine’s tenure, in 1998: Black Employees at Time (BEAT), a Hispanic group known as HOLA@Time Inc., the Asian American Association (A3) and Out@Time Inc., comprising gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender employees.

However, Time magazine has no African American correspondents, which helped it earn the Thumbs Down Award in 2012 from the National Association of Black Journalists.

“Pearlstine served as Time Inc.’s editor in chief from 1994 to 2005,” Moses’ story continued. “For the past five years, he has been chief content officer of Bloomberg LP. Prior to Bloomberg, he served as a senior advisor to p-e firm Carlyle Group. At Time Inc., editors will now report to the group presidents of their respective groups (lifestyle, news and style/entertainment), but Pearlstine will have ‘dotted-line’ responsibility for them. In an interview, Pearlstine said he would be focusing on developing new line extensions and consumer-focused products and would be available to editors if they had problems, but that ‘I don’t expect to be signing off on covers.’ 

“The shakeup represents a sea change at Time Inc., with its longstanding tradition of editorial independence. It’s bound to stir questions internally about how the editorial side will be protected from business-side interference going forward—perhaps mitigated by Pearlstine’s stellar editorial reputation—but it also brings Time Inc. in line with the way other media companies operate. . . .”

Leslie Kaufman, New York Times: Reshuffling at Time Inc. to Set Table for Spinoff 

Joe Nocera, New York Times: The Fall of the Wall?

Michael Sebastian,adage.com: Understanding Time Inc.’s New Editorial Order

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