Why did the MSM treat Barack Obama’s guided tour through the Middle East and Europe as a Major Event that required their nightly news anchors to fly to Jordan (CBS’ Katie Couric), Israel (ABC’s Charles Gibson) and Germany (NBC’s Brian Williams)? Believe it or not, John McCain talked them into it, reports The Associated Press:  

McCain raised the stakes for Obama’s trip, “especially if he winds up going into two war zones,” said Paul Friedman, senior vice president of CBS News. 

“The question really needs to be posed: Is this type of coverage fair?” said Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. “This is nothing but a political stunt.” … 

Along with newsworthiness, the question of fairness was discussed within ABC News before it was agreed Gibson would travel, said Jon Banner, executive producer of “World News.” Also, if one network anchor decides to hit the road for a big event, chances are the others will follow. 

“We have already been in discussions with the McCain campaign to try to afford them the same or a similar opportunity,” Banner said. “We have gone to great lengths to be fair and provide equal time to both campaigns.” 

Banner must be measuring the number of minutes of coverage Obama has gotten as compared with McCain in dog minutes: Every seven minutes of Obama coverage is “equal to” one minute of McCain coverage. 

Boston University journalism prof Bob Zelnick tells AP that all the media attention can cut both ways because the media’s elite are watching his every move and will pounce on any gaffes. The trouble is, Obama’s handlers are one step ahead of the media pack. Access to the candidate is being carefully controlled – and in some cases denied:

† In an interview with Chris Matthews on “Hardball” (video) NBC News’ Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell called Obama out for excluding the press during his visits with soldiers and says the edited video from those encounters is suspect:   

Let me just say something about the message management.  He didn’t have reporters with him, he didn’t have a press pool, he didn’t do a press conference while he was on the ground in either Afghanistan or Iraq. What you’re seeing is not reporters brought in.  You’re seeing selected pictures taken by the military, questions by the military, and what some would call fake interviews, because they’re not interviews from a journalist.  So, there’s a real press issue here.  Politically it’s smart as can be.  But we’ve not seen a presidential candidate do this, in my recollection, ever before. … 

Being a reporter who was not present in any of those situations, I just cannot report on what was edited out, what was, you know, on the sidelines.  That’s my issue. We don’t know what we are seeing. 

† But there is one group of reporters whom Obama wants to avoid even more than the MSM’s foreign correspondents – correspondents with foreign media. In a Washington Post op-ed, Christoph von Marschall, Washington bureau chief of Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel, writes that his presidential campaign is hiding “a dirty little secret”:      

Although Obama portrays himself as the best candidate to engage the rest of the world and restore America’s image abroad, and many Americans support him for that reason, so far he has almost completely refused to answer questions from foreign journalists. When the press plane leaves tonight for his trip, there will be, as far as I know, no foreign media aboard. The Obama campaign has refused multiple requests from international reporters to travel with the candidate. … 

Perhaps Obama considers members of the foreign media a risk rather than an opportunity. … Or perhaps we’re witnessing the arrogance that comes from being so close to power. One of his campaign advisers told me recently: “Why should we take the time for foreign media, since there is Obamania around the world?” … 

Europeans have the same questions about his experience and character that Americans do. Unlike U.S. citizens, we can’t vote in the election; its results, though, will affect our lives, much as it will affect theirs. Surely a man who has said he would talk with U.S. adversaries such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can spend a few moments with journalists from friendlier countries. [Emphasis, The Stiletto.] 

† And there is one reporter who ranks even lower in Obama’s esteem than von Marschall and his European colleagues: Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent of The New Yorker.  Ryan Lizza. For some reason, there was no room on the campaign plane for him. Maybe Obama thinks he’s been “covered” enough by the magazine.   

Perhaps the media will have better luck getting Obama to sit down with them if they submit their questions to him in writing, and then he can read prepared answers off a teleprompter during the “live” interview. Unlike McCain, Obama doesn’t appear comfortable speaking off the top of his head, and he prefers to duck tough questions about dicey subjects.

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog, chosen an Official Honoree in the Political Blogs category by the judges of the 12th Annual Webby Awards (the Oscars of the online universe) along with CNN Political Ticker, Swampland (Time magazine) and The Caucus (The New York Times).

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