White House Reporters Trade Puff for Access

The 'beat sweetener' laudatory profile is early-term tradition
By Gabriel Winant,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2009 1:22 PM CST
White House Reporters Trade Puff for Access
In this photo provided by CBS, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel appears on CBS' "Face the Nation" in Washington, Sunday, March 1, 2009.   (AP Photo/CBS Face the Nation, Karin Cooper)

Readers of just about any national news outlet might’ve noticed a flood of good press about top White House aides lately. It’s not coincidence, and it’s not bias, Michael Calderone writes for Politico. Called a “beat sweetener,” such pieces aim to cultivate sources by praising them in print. Says one professor, “Whenever I see a laudatory profile, there is always usually some hidden agenda going on.”

“It’s emblematic of the way Washington journalism often works,” says Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter. But a favorable profile doesn’t necessarily imply quid pro quo, protests Mark Leibovich of the New York Times. “I don’t know if the Obama world is going to read nice profiles and now repay this person with every state secret that comes across the desk.” (More Obama administration stories.)

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