Reporter Lesley Clark once got close enough to President Obama at an international summit to notice that he was chewing gum. “I think it was that nicotine stuff,” she recalls.
Okay, not exactly a major scoop. But the point, for White House reporters like Clark, is that such up-close glimpses of the president are rare. Outside of one of Obama’s irregular news conferences, and outside of official ceremonies, correspondents don’t see the president much, and almost never in ways in which he isn’t scripted, choreographed or otherwise camera-ready.
Clark’s friends and family, and likely some of her readers, think that she hobnobs with Obama and his advisers all the time. They see the news media doing their job on TV, and they watch fictional programs about the White House, so they think they know what she does. They don’t.
For most of the press corps, life is largely about closed doors. On most days, the only people at the White House who will talk to a reporter such as Clark, at least on the record, are the people paid to do so — the phalanx of “communications” aides and press attaches who give the official spin on events.