The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Hillary Clinton’s team takes another hit on media briefings

Hillary and Chelsea Clinton during the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York on Sept. 24. (Jin Lee/Bloomberg News)
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As recounted here, the Telegraph of Nashua, N.H., last week published an editorial blasting the worthlessness of a Clinton campaign conference call. A taste:

Clinton operatives held a conference call about efforts the campaign is making to bulk up a social media outreach campaign and plans to build working groups that are – get this – based on specific issues rather than the traditional county-by-county breakdown.
We’ll give you a moment to recover from the impact of such revelatory news.

To keep this style of Clinton coverage going, CNBC Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood has turned in a piece titled, “How’s Hillary doing? Wish we could tell you.

I’ve been inside Hillary Clinton’s national campaign headquarters in Brooklyn. I’ve talked with “senior officials” about her bid for the White House. They sat in these chairs. Wish I could tell you more. But they said very little. Notice that I typed very little and not “very little,” because under the ground rules of Thursday’s briefing reporters were not allowed to quote their words directly. You’re not missing much.

Campaign aides dished out information in broad categories, as Harwood explained: “Her husband, Bill, and daughter, Chelsea, will play roles in her campaign. Can’t say exactly what, or when,” wrote Harwood of the aides’ limited disclosures.

Compare that treatment with a far less sneering version in Time magazine, which also attended a recent briefing at Clinton HQ:

Hillary Clinton will gradually ramp up her campaign throughout the summer, but it will be months before she turns completely to a more orthodox model replete with a packed public schedule of billboard events and the regular appearance of husband Bill and daughter Chelsea, top Clinton campaign officials said on Thursday.

A write-up in the New York Times played it straight in some parts

The opening phase of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign, with its sporadic and somewhat sheltered schedule of small round-table discussions, is coming to a close, her aides said Thursday.
Beginning with a June 13 rally where she plans to lay out a more detailed rationale for her candidacy, Mrs. Clinton is expected to begin detailing policy proposals, interacting with larger groups of voters at town hall settings and speaking to even bigger crowds of Democrats, mainly in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, the aides said.

… and also ripped the campaign aides: “And they provided little else in the way of candor, other than to acknowledge that Mrs. Clinton, who performs better when she is not overscheduled, would still have a long way to go to ramp up to a full-blown general election-style pace.”

Media organizations are at the wrong end of a power dynamic vis-a-vis the Clinton campaign: They number in the hundreds — thousands, perhaps — and they’re all vying for whatever meal scraps they can scrounge up. There aren’t too many levers that reporters can pull to change that imbalance. Publicly chiding the campaign’s briefings is one of them, however.

(H/T Politico’s Dylan Byers)