Conservative media are in a huff this week over the group hug that President Obama reportedly held with hosts and pundits from MSNBC, the left-leaning news network.
And they should be.
The grim bit here isn’t that Obama invited a group of journalists that he clearly views as friendly to his administration. That’s politics.
It’s his job to find and cultivate allies wherever he can to advance his agenda.
The fumble is that MSNBC’s crew — who purport to be, you know, journalists — took the meeting.
According to Huffingtonpost, a White House spokesman said the “Obama meeting Maddow, other progressives [was] to discuss importance of extending the Bush middle-class tax cut.”
Maddow reportedly joked that she was joining a “hippie cabal.”
This isn’t quite on par with Fox News attempting to recruit its own presidential candidates, but its far too cozy and collaborative a relationship.
In a post this week, I argued that MSNBC is different from Fox — a liberal-leaning advocacy news network, to be sure, but still a news network. This weakens my argument considerably.
Reporters and journalists meet with people in power in many different ways, from social gatherings to formal interviews. Sometimes we’re actually (gasp) friends with the people we cover.
That’s nothing new. But this has the optics of an organizational session, a team meeting.
The bottom line is very simple. News organizations face a lot of competing pressures, from the financial to the social to the political.
Which makes it all the more vital that they fight to maintain their first loyalty, which is to their audiences and to the facts. My question to Maddow and Company would be simple.
How did that trip to the White House help inform your viewers? What did it do for your credibility as an independent, trustworthy voice?
Joking that she’s part of a “hippie cabal” isn’t much of an answer.