Page 2 of 2   <      

Media Notes: Howard Kurtz on President Obama's Media Blitz

(Pete Souza - Via Bloomberg)

"Are there are some people who still think through the prism of race when it comes to evaluating me and my candidacy? Absolutely. Sometimes they vote for me for that reason. Sometimes they vote against me for that reason," he told Gregory.

The decision to exclude Fox News was not a shocker, given that Obama has taken several shots at the channel and conservative host Sean Hannity in particular. Dunn says she expects the president to talk to Fox in the coming months.

"Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace interviewed Obama in February, when the president spoke to five networks on a single day, and was not pleased at being excluded this time. He accused White House officials of "pettiness," telling Fox viewers, "They are the biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington." It may or may not be a coincidence that the Fox broadcast network declined to air Obama's fourth prime-time news conference, as well as his address to Congress on health care earlier this month.

Obama's Monday date with "The Late Show" is easy to understand, because Letterman has a different audience than a news program. But Dave's first interview with a president may not be a slam-dunk for Obama, who wound up apologizing, after a March appearance with Jay Leno, for likening his bowling efforts to the Special Olympics. Presidential attempts at humor can end in YouTube-worthy pratfalls.

Letterman also has a serious side. He pressed Obama on Iraq during a 2007 appearance, and ripped John McCain for a last-minute cancellation during the campaign.

Will Letterman be just another stop on the tour? Is the sheer frequency of Obama's appearances making each one less of an "event"? Eight days ago, when "60 Minutes" aired Kroft's third sit-down with Obama since the election, the president's comments drew far less media attention than the earlier interviews.

Still, it can be awkward for journalists to make such observations. When ABC's Jake Tapper sought comment for a story on whether the president was risking overexposure, he reported: "The White House said they would be happy to deny all of ABC News's interview requests for the president for the rest of the year. They were joking, I think."

Possibly the loudest presidential buzz last week emanated from news he did not intend to make. In off-the-record banter before his interview with CNBC's John Harwood, Obama called West a "jackass" for rushing the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards and upstaging Taylor Swift's acceptance speech. Some outside news organizations were able to see the feed, and "Nightline" co-anchor Terry Moran reported the remark on Twitter -- and then "untweeted" it, with ABC apologizing to the White House and CNBC. Moran, though, wasn't bound by any off-the-record agreement.

TMZ soon posted the audio, and a video of the exchange made its way onto Politico, which then took it down as a journalistic courtesy to CNBC. But Obama should have realized that anything you say with a mike on is likely to reach the outside world -- and, in fact, immediately tried to rectify his mistake. "Cut the president some slack," Obama pleaded.

A president calling out a hip-hop star is always going to be hot stuff, but such unscripted moments also stand out during interviews when there is little on-the-record news, as was the case with CBNC.

Obama made clear his frustration with the media's coverage in the Sunday interviews. To Schieffer: "The 24-hour news cycle and cable television and blogs and all this, they focus on the most extreme elements on both sides. They can't get enough of conflict; it's catnip to the media right now." To King: "The easiest way to get on CNN is, or Fox or any of the other stations, MSNBC, is to just say something rude and outrageous." To Stephanopoulos: "If you're just being sensible and giving people the benefit of the doubt . . . you don't get time on the nightly news."

That's a bit of an overstatement--the nightly newscasts, for instance, don't regularly feature screamers -- but in this "You lie!" age, Obama has a point. It's equally true that the president has become an eager player in this nonstop news cycle. And the more he waltzes onto every show this side of "Dancing With the Stars," the more he risks being seen as just another programming element, his words quickly fading into the electronic ether.

Howard Kurtz also works for CNN and hosts its weekly media program, "Reliable Sources," which airs during "State of the Union."

<       2

© 2009 The Washington Post Company