Though I am flattered to read that TBogg thinks I “own” the gaggle, I don’t agree with him.
I’ve said this before in comments around the blogosphere but it bears repeating. The gaggle is a target-rich environment. Here you have the president’s spokesman making himself available to an increasingly skeptical press corps on a daily basis (and if you don’t think the gagglers are becoming increasingly skeptical check out Elizabeth Bumiller channeling Helen Thomas in the second part of yesterday’s Obsession).
Most of the time I struggle to whittle the transcript down to a blog-length post (a struggle that usually gets the best of me). I frequently divide my coverage into two separate posts (as I did yesterday, here and here) and still leave something significant on the floor of the electronic cuttingroom.
Take this exchange on the Newsweek bru-ha-ha in yesterday’s gaggle:
Q In context of the Newsweek situation, I think we hear the caution you’re giving us about reporting things based on a single anonymous source. What, then, are we supposed to do with information that this White House gives us under the conditions that it comes from a single anonymous source?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not sure what exactly you’re referring to.
Q Frequent briefings by senior administration officials in which the ground rules are we can only identify them as a single anonymous source.
MR. McCLELLAN: Ken, I know that there is an issue when it comes to the media in terms of the use of anonymous sources, but the issue is not related to background briefings.
But there is a credibility problem in the media regarding the use of anonymous sources, but it’s because of fabricated stories, and it’s because of situations like this one over the weekend. It’s not because of the background briefings that you may be referring to.
Q What prevents this administration from just saying from this point forward, you will identify who it is that’s talking to us?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of background briefings, if that’s what you’re asking about, which I assume it is, let me point out that what I’m talking about there are officials who are helping to provide context to on-the-record comments made by people like the President or the Secretary of State or others. I don’t think that that is the issue here when it comes to the use or widespread use of anonymous sources by the media. I think it’s —
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish — I think it’s a much larger issue. And as I said, one of the concerns is that some media organizations have used anonymous sources that are hiding behind that anonymity in order to generate negative attacks.
Q But to our readers, viewers and listeners, I think it’s all the same.
MR. McCLELLAN: And then you have a situation — you have a situation where we found out later that quotes were attributed to people that they didn’t make. Or you have a situation where you now learn that a single source was used for verifying this allegation — and that source, himself, said he could not personally verify the accuracy of the report. And I think that that’s — you know, that’s one of the issue that concerns the American people when they look at the media, and I think sometimes the media does have difficulty going back and kind of critiquing itself. And sometimes it’s convenient for the media to point to others or to point to something other than internally. I think it’s an issue that they need to work to address internally, and we’ll work to address from our standpoint, as well. And those bureau chiefs that I met with have indicated that it is a problem that they’re working to address internally, as well.
So I think we need to talk about the larger issue here when we talk about it.
Q With all due respect, though, it sounds like you’re saying your single anonymous sources are okay and everyone else’s aren’t.
The assministration’s continued use of background briefings by unnamed officials is a fairly hot media topic (scroll through Dan Froomkin’s archives to find out why), but between the press corps’ merciless pummeling of Little Scottie’s newfound status as media critic and his admission that Janice Rogers Brown is an “activist judge” the assministration’s “Do As I Say, Not As I Do” policy towards anonymous sources fell by the wayside.
I’d love to see more attention focused on the gaggle. Let’s hold Little Scottie accountable for the answers he provides, and force him to answer the questions he’d like to avoid.
The more the merrier.