For much of April and May, Hillary Clinton limited her contact with the press to such a degree that outlets had to replace her 2016 presidential campaign’s coverage with hypothetical questions and countdowns. Clinton has since started talking to the press again, if only to address the ongoing State Department email scandal, but another wrinkle has popped up — this time with the Clinton campaign’s press pool.
According to The Washington Post, the pool following Clinton along her campaign trail looks more like a VIP club, as it has developed a rather exclusionary practice at the expense of outlets who can’t afford high travel costs:
Pool members have agreed to bear heavy travel costs to cover Clinton and thus should have first crack at information about her. Others are welcome to join the pool, they say — “the more the merrier,” as one put it — but only if they’re willing to shoulder their share of campaign-coverage costs.
Otherwise, they can wait until the end of the day.
At this point, you’re probably wondering what a “press pool” is. As Paul Farhi explains:
Pool reports are journalism’s way of managing journalism’s perpetual mob scenes. Rather than having a jostling crowd of reporters all chasing the same newsmaker into tight quarters, a lone reporter handles the job, sharing whatever he or she learns with colleagues via a series of e-mails.
Most press pools in force today owe their operation and existence to the White House Press Corps, which early on developed a pool system in order to adequately cover the administration in an orderly manner. The Clinton press pool operates via a closed Google Group, of which the media “big wigs” covering the Democratic hopeful are all members.
While the press pool’s reasoning behind their process makes fiscal sense to a degree, it’s disturbing in how limiting the situation has made it. Since Clinton has been conservative when it comes to direct dealings with journalists, any opportunity for access should be cherished and shared by reporters — not greedily withheld and guarded.
There’s also the matter of the perpetual old vs. new media debate, as well as the financial considerations that go along with it. As one Clinton campaign reporter tells Farhi:
“I just think in this day and age, it’s hard to justify restricting the information…because shrinking budgets and newsrooms need to translate to more sharing of information, not less.”
Members of the Clinton press pool are meeting to discuss the matter on Monday. Whether or not any organizational or procedural changes will come about remains to be seen.
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